Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's Late Night With Bobbi!

     Early morning, actually. I started early Saturday. The Data Viking visited and we walked through the Tri-State Gun Show, out at Stout Field National Guard Armory.  It was unusually crowded; it's generally more of a collector/hunter show but this one had a considerable number of what Tamara Keel calls "gen. pop.," the gun-owning Everyman.  This may be due to recent White House mentions -- or it may have simply been that the weather was unseasonably pleasant, upper 40s to low 50s and sunny, and people were motivated to get out.  We saw any number of interesting things and many familiar faces.

     One of the more interesting things at the show was a Spanish .32-20, a relatively close copy of a Colt that was made in Eibar;* another was a lovely nickle or chrome-plated High-Standard "Sentinel Deluxe" .22 revolver.  Fit and finish was unusually good and the (factory) plating was both bright and warm, which is why I'm not quite sure what metal it was.  The Deluxe versions look to run about $300; this was marked a dollar less.  I own three non-Deluxe Sentinels and it's a long time between paydays, or I would have been tempted -- this is still a "sleeper" among .22 revolvers, with very good stocks, light weight, smooth double-action and modern, large sights.  Other than the Deluxe, prices range around $200 - $250.  They shoot as nicely as any .22 revolver from Colt, Smith & Wesson or H&R and you'll have plenty left over to buy enough ammunition to get good with it.

     We ran a few errands and I was running out of steam; he left, I went to bed early and managed to get a full eight hours before my early shift.  Perhaps I won't have to fight quite as hard to stay awake.
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* Eibar was a major center of gun-making activity in Spain.  It's also in just about the center of Basque country, which has enjoyed at least a degree of autonomy in Spain since 1979.  Make of that what you will.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

An Interesting Class

     Other than some useful review of the modular Incident Management structure, it was hardly a class at all.  Instead, it was a very useful bit of touching-base with county- and state-level Emergency Management people, along with a cameo appearance by a couple of Indiana State Police Troopers.

     The purpose of the class is enable technical personnel -- Engineering and IT -- in my line of work to get to locations where we have necessary equipment, but no regular staff, during various emergencies and natural disasters (or to get to work at all; during some kinds of Snow Emergency, for instance, when the roads are deemed closed and driver risk a ticket just for operating a motor vehicle on public thoroughfares).  At the end of the class, we walk away with some understanding of command structure (i.e., who to ask for, who not to bother and how to stay out of the way), some basic safety gear (hardhat, visibility vest -- we have to buy own own but that stuff s cheap) and a better understanding of how to handle interaction with emergency workers (see below) while they have picked up a little insight into who these crazy people are and why we might need past a roadblock, across a flooded stretch of road, or to be out driving in a blizzard.

     One of the better quotes: "The scene of a disaster is not the place to be meeting for the first time and exchanging business cards!"  In Indiana, the IDHS is the state-level coordinating agency for emergency response and they have periodic conferences of county Emergency Managers; one purpose of those is simply to get them in contact with one another before they need to go borrow a cup of snowplows or whatever.  It's a good idea.

     I found the class useful and the IDHS and EMA people were exactly the type I hope to see in such jobs: serious about the work, sincere in the belief the can make a positive difference.  It's easy to gripe about government, especially at the bureaucrat level and even more so when it's a wrestling-smoke job like managing emergencies.  Even the description borders on an oxymoron!  Maybe in An-Cap Libertopia, there's a market solution to disaster; maybe all your neighbors will pitch in (just as they often do in emergencies in this world.)  Here in the world of what is, these government agencies do exist.  They're not going away and given that, I would rather see them in the hands of competent folks who think the job is worth doing than some tired, cynical timeserver.

     For the people who moan, "Where were the Feds?  Where was the state?" when things go wrong, here's how it works: emergency response happens from the bottom up; first response is coordinated and supported at the county level if it needs it.  If the county finds it too big, they get help from the state.  If the state needs help, they yell for the Feds.  FEMA -- the good handing-out-water-and-blankets side, not the tinfoil hat fantasy seen in YouTube videos of rail yards -- is by definition the last on the scene.

     To close, here's a hot tip from the Indiana State Police: "Do not tiptoe up behind an officer at a roadblock and tap him or her on the shoulder!"
     (Entire class laughs.)
     "No, this really happens, and more than you'd think.  You don't know what that officer was just doing, helping pull a mangled body out of a car wreck, looking for an armed suspect -- they are making split-second decisions."
       The other officer added, "And please, for your sake -- can I borrow this smartphone? -- do not be doing this." He'd palmed the phone and put his hand behind his right hip; as he said "this," he brought his hand back into sight just above his holster and smoothly upward, and many of us flinched: it looked for all the world as if he was drawing his sidearm.  An effective lesson.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Another Hasty Morning

     I have a class to attend and it starts an hour earlier than my usual -- and at a location father away.  But it may serve double duty: I'm hoping to get a Hidden Frontier vignette out if it.

     Actually made some progress yesterday, and on the "Robinson Crusoe" project at that!  (Just in time for Friday?)  Despite a frustrating start -- described below -- and a bad scare thanks to a backwards-functioning bypass switch -- "on" means "device online," not "bypass on!" it all worked out in the end, last I knew.  There may be forty-'leven e-mails on my work account complaining otherwise.

     Network issues ate up my day and not the solving of most of them; not only is that "by others," most of it was happening hundreds of miles away at Corporate HQ, where very frustrated IS/IT types recently discovered they had ad-hocked and extemporized themselves into a serious, ugly tangle and have been struggling to untangle it ever since, with occasional deleterious effects on access to e-mail, the external Internet and other unsubtle issues.

     My networking puzzle was simpler: the device I needed to bootstrap (along with my laptop, back and forth) in order to upgrade can be accessed via a modem over dial-up ("What's that funny noise?"*), a direct serial connection, or a network port.  Naturally, you want the fattest pipe, so once I had everything to the point where I could connect, I plugged them both into a dumb hub and fired up the software.  I'd skimmed through the manual and expected smooth sailing.  Nope.  Would not connect.  The default address in the software was 127.0.0.0 (!) and there was no clue what it ought to be anywhere in the manual when I sat down and read through.
     Finally gave up and went to serial (after a hunt for the one "transparent" USB-to-RS232 adaptor), getting the job done at a crawl with a few glitches but succeeding eventually.  Poking around, I discovered the "default address" in the device itself wasn't.  It's blank.  E-mail from the manufacturer confirms this is normal: you have to connect via one of the other two methods and set the ip address.  Good to know.

     Over the top again today, what-what?
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* A long, long time ago, when everything was amazing and Usenet wasn't a forgotten spam-sump, the Internet went "bong-ba-bong-screeeeeeeee...." when you connected to it.  No, really, it did. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Out Of Time This Morning

     I made a tasty pesto omelet this morning -- yes, they're green -- then bragged about it on the Book of Face and used up all my writing time!

     Must get in the shower.  More later today.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Am Profoundly Thankful

     And more than a little humbled by the reader who decided that my short-term financial woes were best resolved immediately.  You know who you are and you've lifted quite a burden.  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

And Here We Are

     I let my bosses talk me off the ledge last week.  I was feeling really burned-out but one does have to go on.  At least we're a little more on the same page with some of the deadlines.

     One of the most deadline-driven projects keeps growing on me, not all for the worse.  It started out as an improvised answer to a government mandate and as they have added requirements, I've added layer after layer of gadgetry.  The latest addition was the last straw and not jut for me; there are times of day when the thing can be bypassed and we're going to do so.  This is all well outside the function of our core devices, so I have had to put the thing together from various functional blocks.  With a bypass added, I will be able to check and adjust them offline.

     Project number two is a "Robinson Crusoe" project.  The goal is, say, "build a canoe."  But you can't build a canoe without a tree.  You find a tree, but you haven't got an axe.  So you find flint, knap a hand-axe and chop off a suitable branch for a handle, but now you need some way to fasten the axe head to the handle.  So you find fibrous plants, bind the head to the handle, and cut down the tree.  You can rough shape it with the axe but you need an adze to scoop out the inside, so you go back to the flint and make one, and so on and so on.  This project, I need to make some changes to a device, but to do so, I must update the firmware.  But I can't update the firmware without the interface program, and that must be downloaded from the manufacturer.  They sent me e-mail with a "download now" button, but my employer's security software suppresses the link....  And this is all before I load it onto an available Engineering laptop (IS has most of our desktops screwed down tight: users can't add or remove software, period) and try to get it work.  I got as far as getting the interface software from their ftp site, after a little "what do you mean, the button doesn't work?" with the support guys.  Any day now, I'll have that canoe finished!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Exploding Headwire

     I was watching Manh(A)ttan last night, the not at all real story of U.S. development of atomic weapons during WW II, when a major character just tossed out the line, "We'll use exploding-bridgewire detonators...," as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, been around forever, yadda-yadda--

     Except it's not.  It was brand-spanking new and seriously classified.  These characters have been wrestling with the problems of building an implosion-type device for a year or more, including running explosive experiments akin to RaLa (only without the radiation hazard) and one of the major problems is setting off all the implosion charges at the same time.  It's a huge big deal -- conventional detonators, then and now, are sloppy things, three or four orders of magnitude* slower than EBW, and you can expect that order-of-magnitude variation within a single batch. Use them to fire off your implosion-type bomb and there's a very loud "bang!" with farty overtones as it barfs out one or more plumes of vaporized radioactive material at the low-pressure points -- a fairly slow plume, as such things go: it's not a bomb, just a very nasty mess.

     The need for rapid and synchronous detonation became obvious during the development of the implosion-type atom bomb; Dr. Luis W. Alvarez and his student Lawrence H. Johnston invented (or possibly re-invented) them at Los Alamos, probably in 1944: it was a very big deal.  It would not have been taken for granted.

     Then again, that same series of episodes has the Nazis send the severed head of an Allied spy in the German nuclear program to the President Roosevelt, and I'm irked about exploding-bridgewire detonators?  Yes; after spending so much time on the very real technical challenges of  building a implosion-type bomb, the show throws away a major problem to concentrate on the fictional issue of not having a supply of primers for experimental work.  It completely misses the point.

     There has been, by the way, all manner of soap-opera interaction between the characters; diagramming who's-doing-who would be crowded on a whole sheet of paper.  This builds dramatic tension and engages the viewer, just as it should -- is it too much to ask that they not bugger the technological history while they're at it?

     (A much smaller quibble: most of the pencils seen onscreen have been Mirado "Black Warriors," a plausible choice since they were in wide use at the time [as Eagle "Black Warrior"] and are still made today; the black body and brass [probably anodized aluminum these days] ferrule with a maroon strip are very recognizable.  Now I'm seeing some aluminum-ferrule versions, and I think that's an anachronism. [ETA: is it ever! Plastic ferrules replaced metal during WW II. We can safely assume Uncle Sam might be using up existing stock but silvery-metal ferrules were still rare.]  Given the show's tendency to use "scientist-calculating-away-with-pencil" as a recurring image, it can be jarring. In an historical film, there's someone on the Internet who knows the history of every single class of object seen on the screen.  With a lot of time and a huge budget, it can all look right.  In reality, close often has to be good enough.)  
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* These would be engineering orders of magnitude, each 10n per step, and not astronomical ones, which I'm not going to be able to explain in a footnote.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

I Have A Dream. A Presidential Dream

     Says here The Bloomberg is thinking about making an independant run for President, no doubt because us poor, ignorant hilljacks are still not seeing the light, and keep on keeping and bearing arms, using slt, and even buying the occasional Big Gulp.*


     If The Donald doesn't get the GOP's blessing, he may try going it alone, too.  This sets the stage for the Perfect Storm: [Clinton or Sanders] vs.Bloomberg vs. [Cruz, Rubio or a Player To Be Named Later] vs. Trump.  Their mutual popularity results in a four-way tie in the Electoral College and they're all four exiled to Antarctica with a pallet-load of Spam, four matches and a Boy Scout tent, while we start the whole mess over from scratch with an entire new slate on all sides.

     Sure, the choices won't be any better, but we'll be rid of everybody's headaches.  Yeah, yeah, and some people's Great Bloated Hope, but hey, it's all about compromise, right?
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* Not me!  --Why don't they make bigger coffee cups?

Happy Birthday Tamara!

     The Snarkmistress herself is having a birthday today!  Yes, she's fifteen.  Just like last year.  And the year before last.  And the year before that. And.... 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

I Slept In

     I deserved to sleep in.  The donut place is open until two or three, and that's my main deadline for the day: go buy and consume a couple of sinkers.  Maybe a late lunch with Tam later.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Manh(A)ttan

     So, I stumbled into this TV series, ostensibly set in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.  The critics raved about it; one even said something about a "pitch-perfect eye for period detail."

     I dispute that -- the frequently-seen spring-loaded boom light (Luxo L-1) isn't a total anachronism but "gooseneck" lamps were much more common at the time and you'll look in vain for a single example on someone's desk; and then there's the matter of bright-pastel foam-plastic hair rollers, referring to a meteor wiping out the dinosaurs* and so on and on -- but that's not my biggest objection.

     The story, you see, is a quite competently-told soap opera in a heavy science-becoming-engineering setting.  The actors are good in their roles, they're dressed well and, my quibbles aside, the sets and props are good.  It's just not the actual damn story of the development of the atomic bomb! And I'm not comfortable with that at all.  So far, I'm hanging on by telling myself it's an alternate-history tale, but the overall theme with the plucky underdogs of implosion standing up to arrogant frat-boys running the gun-type design is incredibly overplayed; the implosion-type was never disfavored and ran as a backup to the gun-type from the outset: the engineering was more difficult but the physics and chemistry were better, since plutonium was easier and quicker to come by than U-235. (With this last statement, I, too, am drinking the handwavium; it's that easy.  See below.†)

     So, we'll see.  Taken as fiction, Manh(A)ttan is not so bad.  As history?  Not just no but Hell no!

 P.S.: And the episode I watched last night managed to mis-tell the story of the neutron poisoning problem in the reactors at the Hanford site.  Um, make that completely mis-tell; I recognized bits from Fermi's actual experience at Hanford, from Richard Feynman's story of double-checking the gaseous diffusion uranium plant at Oak Ridge and found Chien-Shiung Wu's and Leona Woods' actual role in solving the problem split between three other and quite different characters. Oh, and a possible melt-down, which is odd, since xenon poisoning shuts down the chain reaction.  But it's all very exciting, in that alternate-history timeline where physics is different and Enrico Femi never existed.
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* Readers may not get how fractally wrong this is from my passing mention.  Luckily, Dr. Walter Alvarez can explain. While he was indeed instrumental in developing the Alvarez hypothesis, it also required the work of his geologist son, who was learning to walk, talk and not soil himself during the Manhattan Project. Oh, and they published it in 19-frikkin-80.  (If you like your science skillfully fictionalized, you'll find some of the elder Alvarez's other wartime work in Arthur C. Clarke's Glide Path.)

 † It's not quite that simple.  As the science turned into engineering, both the implosion and the gun-type bombs were designed around plutonium which was only screamin' difficult to get, rather than uranium-235 which was insanely hard to separate from U-238.  This decision was made early on, when there was less than a teaspoon of plutonium around (churned out in a cyclotron, it says here) and maybe not even that much U-235.  Work to produce both -- belt and suspenders! -- on a large scale was barely underway at Oak Ridge.  As reactor-produced plutonium started to be made -- slowly at first, with another big pile of problems to be solved (pun intentional) -- the isotopic composition of the stuff was substantially different to the first tiny samples.  The difference was such that it was a bit "hotter," and therefore more likely to start a chain reaction.  Good news?  Not for the gun design, which relies on rapid mechanical assembly of a critical mass: move the pieces together too slowly, and your bomb may fizzle, "burning" itself a little but not, in fact, exploding with much force.  And they were already moving slugs of dense radioactive metal about as fast as possible: there was no way to make the "gun" design work with the available plutonium.  On the other hand, the stuff would work fine in an implosion design.  At that point (April-June of 1944), the Manhattan Project swapped priorities; by July, implosion was the main focus and the gun-type, with the basic engineering either well-solved or relatively trivial (!) redesigned around U-235 and became the backup plan.  Meanwhile, gargantuan works at Oak Ridge produced a trickle of uranium 235: when "Little Boy" was dropped on Hiroshima, most of the world's then-available supply of U-235 was consumed.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Money Talks

     Especially money you owe and don't have.  Went to pay one medical bill last night and found two more, all from my eye problem when the glob of clear gel in my left eye decided to pull away from the retina.  After insurance, it's about $1000.

     Meanwhile, the "bad spot" on my left upper jaw has flared up again, with the skin opened up and a lot of swelling and pain.

     All this tells me I'm going to go into work and suck it up.  Gotta pay the bills.  Gotta keep the animal running.  I'm damned if I know why, other than it's lousy to be sleeping in a cardboard box under a bridge, but I hate being cold at least that much.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Juggle Chainsaws? Okay.

     Went into work and even more stuff went on top of the task stack, accompanied by hazy speculation from middle-management based on meetings and website-skimming.  It sleets down quicker than I am able to shovel it away and because I'm on the receiving end of people for whom "saying" is, in fact, "doing," it becomes very difficult to explain that this stuff takes finite time to accomplish -- and more of it when I am thrown jobs without the meeting-based context the bosses already have: I end up with the "we have decided to..." and have to scramble to understand the very nature of the task.  It's not "bolt this to that and paint it haze gray."  Often a very simple decision requires a complex implementation -- or cannot be done at all with the equipment we have, news which is not received graciously.

     Long story short, at the end of the day I told my department head I thought I was done, as in how much notice did he want.

     Incredulity was expressed, and shallow appreciation for my "dedication."  (You know, it's not really dedication if you work over because the job has to reach a sustainable stopping point, nor is it dedication if you go study up on things your boss doesn't bother to provide any background info for because if you don't, you're just stumbling in the dark.)  Offers we made of "help with prioritization," but there's still no understanding that there's too much in the stack, and too many things that have hard deadlines have been shoved down in priority.

     So, I don't know.  I have a meeting tomorrow and if it turns into the usual limp advice to "work smarter, not harder," I may not be able to keep my fool mouth shut.  This would be bad.  The house is nowhere near paid for.

     My co-worker Dave quit a year ago, went and did freelance work as he needed or wanted to, and was found dead in front of his TV after nine months of it.  He didn't get out in time.

     And those two hard realities are the horns of my dilemma.

Dear Internet,

     I don't feel all that much better than yesterday, but I'm going to have a nice hot bath and go in to work anyway.  If I'm going to feel lousy, I might as well do some useful work and get paid for it at the same time.

     Oh, yeah -- it's snowing.  A few inches on the ground already.  Maybe Eliot was right, maybe the cruellest month is April, but January can give it quite a run for the money.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

I Seem To Have Hurt My Back

     Woke up at 0600 this morning and tried to sit up.  There was a stabbing pain in my back!  Laid there and thought about it, none too clearly.  What to do?

     I had been up at 0300 for exactly what you'd think and my back had been kind of sore, which I put down to carrying some heavy items for a longish distance at work.  But it wasn't that bad, the kind of thing that a hot shower fixes quickly.  This was not.  A vicious ache, with lots of little stabby "oh no you don't" twinges for most moves I tried.

     Couldn't push myself up with my arms, that hurt, too.  Finally swung my legs over the edge and tottered off to feed the cats, who were nearly frantic.  Bending to get their food and dish it out was a slow, painful process.  If I turned from the waist, that hurt, too.  I took a couple of Tylenol and went back to bed.  Woke again at 0730, feeling much worse.  I stayed there until a few minutes ago.

     Not much better now but I'm moving around, albeit slowly.  Thought about a nice hot soak in the tub with Epsom salts, but I might not be able to get back out.  Pain is worse on the right side, or I'd be headed to the hospital.  It's centered just inboard of my right shoulder blade, with a milder twin on the left.

     Counting down the hours until I can take a stronger pain medication -- the prescription ones all have acetaminophen in them, so it'll be a little while yet.

     What did I do?  Fell over backwards on a patch of ice Sunday and caught myself on my hands, but that was relatively slow-motion, though inevitable once it began.  I was sweeping snow from my car when my right foot went out from under me, on a coating of powder snow over hard ice.  I windmilled, got my hands behind me, and was able to keep my left foot planted.  At the time, it was only scary; I  got my legs under me, stood back up, finished clearing the RX300 and did my fun (an hour at the range) and errands (grocery shopping) without any problems.  Monday, I carried some too-heavy items farther than I should have -- I could have made two trips, or got a wheeled cart -- and I was so tired on the way home that I nearly started through a red light after stopping, as if it was a four-way stop!  That was a nice little surge of adrenaline.  But none of that seems bad enough to have caused this.

     It's a mystery and one the tincture of time is likely to cure.  Maybe later I'll be up to that bath.  For now, back to bed feels like the best idea.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Customer Service!

     In December, the base of my wooden office chair (it matches my old oak desk) broke for good.  I reglued the center wooden piece but it was getting to be more glue than wood, and the wood broke again in a few days.

     I though I would have to get a new chair, but remember seeing chair bases in the Van Dyke's Restorer's catalog. In my experience, they sell quality stuff and it is priced accordingly.  I ordered the base and it arrived in a few weeks, drop-shipped from the manufacturer.  I let it sit in the box until I had time (and weather!) to get a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil on it.

     So, when I unpacked it during a warm spell, I was pleased with the sturdy, graceful construction but distressed to find one of the socket inserts for the rollers was missing!  I went ahead with the finishing -- no telling how long the weather would hold -- and called Van Dyke's on the next work day evening.

     Got the usual helpful-but-noncommittal line (and you can't blame the customer-service operator for that -- all she can do is send the complaint up the line; she was pleasant on the phone, which can't be easy, call after call), and went looking for a replacement part in the meantime.  Over the next few days, it became apparent that the sockets were unusually heavy-duty (which is good) and replacements were not available locally (not so good).  The base was made by and drop-shipped from Frank Chervan Inc., who sell only wholesale: they make very fine furniture frames, not finished furniture.  So I called them.  Couldn't speak with a human but I left my particulars with the nice robots, not especially hopeful.  A $2.00 part from a wholesale manufacturer?  Never happen.

     About a week later, a lumpy envelope arrived addressed to me.  The return address was Chervan and inside?  The missing roller socket.  Not a thing more.

     I don't know if Van Dyke's or my phone message was the cause, but either way they were as good as gold, and no faffing about: the missing part, promptly and without a quibble.  Now that's customer service!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

At The 1500

     The gun show was extremely full.  Two-way traffic was not possible down most aisles -- you went with the prevailing direction of travel or you didn't go.

     The demographic trends I have noticed at previous shows are continuing: more women, more people of color, more (and more-varied) families and, this time around, more hipsters: yes, young men with fancy mustaches and man-buns, in skinny jeans and so on.  There was a clutch of bikers and plenty of members of one of the least-visible demographics in shooting: African-American hunters.   (Spend enough time in a gun store with a good stock in shotguns* and you'll meet these guys: quiet, serious, knowledgeable and all but invisible to the general public, let alone the media.)

     One of the most demographically-assorted tables is a new one these past three-four shows: the Indiana State Police are set up, taking applications for Indiana's gun permit, the License To Carry Handgun.  Given the history of Indiana's gun laws (it used to be barely legal to carry an unloaded pistol to the practice range without a permit!), maybe it's just that all the "old, white guys" already have their permits, but the application table runs heavily to anything but.

     The largest seller of "morale patches" at the show has added a rainbow flag to their stock of full- and subdued-color national and state flag patches -- no camo-colored version of the rainbow...yet.  No one standing there acting outraged about it, either.

     Supporters of various Presidential  candidates were much in evidence -- I spotted flacks for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump -- along with tables for various Federal and State-level offices.  They were not doing a land-office business.  Maybe it's the plethora of GOP candidates; people looked more annoyed than interested.

     And that's a gunshow in the middle of the Midwest in 2016.  The people get along; the place is too crowded to do anything but smile and make room for others.  Is it a festival of universal love for your fellowman?  Nope; the fireworks-selling jerk with a smirk and Nazi-named smoke powder still has his shiny-new stacks of "The Turner Diaries" (seemingly undiminished) and doesn't much notice the people bouncing away from his table on spotting them, and the sheet-ruining outfit with a creepy table of black-powder pistols, Cowboy Action props and segregation-era washroom/drinking fountain signage (seriously, WTF?) continue to show up, like a brass-plated turd in in punchbowl.  They, too, get visibly fewer browsers than other sellers.

     Even with that, the gun show looks like Indiana: not without its bad spots, but encompassing the entire panoply of humankind, generally smiling and being not-unfriendly to one another, generally finding what they were looking for and willing to live and let live.  You could ask for more, but you're not going to get it.

     Oh, the sellers I mentioned in my previous post?  The obviously-a-collector guy was there and happy; the other fellow was not, but Tam points out he does carry a good line of classic S&Ws, and might've been down at the National Gun Day show in Louisville this weekend.
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* Indiana, not so much for the high-powered hunting rifle.  If you want to hunt deer here, you'll need a shotgun -- or a crossbow.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Gun Show's In Town

     There's no telling what kind of a zoo it will be; the President's been talking about guns again, after all, though at least he only barely touched the topic in his State Of The Union speech.  Liable to be more than a few people there bound and determined to buy what they can before The Prez sends in the baddies in blue helmets--

     Which is, in my opinion, a fantasy out of a Hollywood movie -- maybe a cross between Red Dawn and The Manchurian Candidate.  Oh, the current resident of 1600 Penna. does not like the notion that The People have got guns; it rankles him and he is quite sure the we are the problem, but even his very best hired-gun legal minds (and the Attorney General) can't quite get around that pesky Second Amendment and an even peskier Congress.

     Nevertheless, determined to Do Something, they did what they could do without having their hands slapped, and that's one of the reasons I want to go to the show.  ATF has always been able to define "in the business of buying and selling guns" very flexibly* and the Executive Branch just told 'em to go do that thing, only more so.  While nearly all the sellers of more than a couple guns at the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife show are FFL dealers, there are a couple of regulars who are not.  One of them is a serious collector, a man who knows a lot about obscure firearms, often has some very nice and uncommon examples and is always buying, selling and swapping with an eye to improving his collection.  The other fellow has a wider array of guns in a wide array of conditions; my opinion of his collector-or-dealer status is of no legal worth and I won't offer it.  I will, however, be very interested to see if either of them is not present, or if any ATF-looking types are hanging around their tables,† keeping track.

     Also, Gun Show!  Gotta go!  
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* There's a good reason for this, rather than a simple "sell more than n guns" rule: the law mustn't "chill" private sales (or it will face a court challenge) and even ATF has no interest in going after the nice old man who collects pristine Colts; on the other hand, they will point out that the chap selling random gats to bad guys, why, even one sale by him is too darned many.  The problem comes when J. Random Gun-Seller doesn't fit either of those extremes. 
 
† ATF-looking d00ds and even mopier sorts are always generally hanging around Indy 1500 shows.  With my round eyeglasses and Bettie Page bangs, I don't look like a "typical" gun-show attendee and sometimes they'll chat me up.  This can be great fun -- for me. "And how long have you been with the Agency?" is usually good for a sharp look and an abrupt departure.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Calendar

     I needed a calendar for my mostly-vintage hamshack.  1932 and 2016 share the same calendar, but buying an old one in intact shape and ripping each month off seemed too destructive to me.

     So I made one.
     The backing sheet is card stock.  The calendar pages look crooked -- the paper fasteners that hold them are a bit loose in the punched holes.  It straightens out when hanging.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

"Would You Like A Treatment?"

     "Yes.  I enjoy my treatments."  And that almost-innocent sounding exchange is a clue to the deep, dark weirdness within Joss Whedon's Dollhouse (2009 - 10).

     I started watching it at the time and stopped after four or five episodes.  After Firefly, it didn't seem to have a whole lot of "there" there, a puzzle-of-the-week show in the mold of Quantum Leap or The Pretender or even Have Gun Will Travel in which Skilled Outsider shows up and puts a bad situation right, week after week -- only in the case of Dollhouse, "Skilled Outsider" was one of a group of very attractive young people who had volunteered to have the original personalities removed and stored, while they were loaded with a whole new synthetic "imprint" for each "engagement," and spent the in-between time in a kind of innocent, compliant, childlike state.  (In some ways, that's a show about making TV shows, with the kind of actor's personalities directors can only dream of.)

     But if the premise of the show sounds as if it might be a bit problematic and rife with opportunity for callous exploitation, that would be because it is; with puzzle-of-the-week as a backdrop, things very gradually become more subtly disturbing and then the sixth episode rips it wide open--

     It is probably the darkest of Whedon's television oeuvre.  The clever, bantering dialog is muted; many of the characters are icy, calculating.  And it is not helped by having been planned for five-year story arc, then getting cancelled while the second season was being written.  The pace of the second season approaches panic, which does fit well with the notion of a technology teetering on the brink of devastating societal impact.

     Typical of Whedon SF, the cast does a good job of "selling" the technology, despite a number of inconsistencies (I'm 90% of the way through the series and these could still be talked around).  It is very dark and fundamentally disturbing, but as far as TV SF goes, I think it's among the best.

     The show sank almost without a trace.  Buffy... and Firefly have plenty of fans even now.  Dollhouse?  Not that I've noticed.  And that's too bad.  It's worth a second look.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Oh, Hooray, It's 4° Outside.

     Hooray indeed: it was 2° when I woke up.  (And for those of you in the scientific countries, my handy F to C fonverter says it's -16.7°.  Now that's kind oc fold!  --Just a minute, did that thing stick again?  FONVERTER OCF.  Whew!)

     This kind of weather makes my joints ache and every once-nearly-frotbitten extremity throb.  My right knee, broken, tacked back together with screws and a fish plate and irreversible damage to the cartilage, starts to ack as if it won't bear weight.  It actually will but it hurts like the dickens.  --I haven't much room to complain.  Tamara's travails in this level of cold are nearly indescribable.

     I'm told this chill, like all weather, will pass.  Looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Just A Little Touch Of Snow

     Still falling.
      Personally, I blame the mind-controlled yeti zombies.  YMMV.  Turn up those Bowie tunes, willya?  I think I can still hear the snowfall.

     More snow, and one less odd-eyed cat.  Sigh.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Found A Message In A Bottle

     Opened it up and it said:

     Introducing Windows 10
               More than 110M people
               have already upgraded
               to Windows 10 - FREE!
     Don't miss out!
     Schedule your free upgrade!

     I left the cork out and thew it as far out into the water as I could.*
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* I tried upgrading Roseholme's "Brainbox."  It's not Win10 compatible -- and yet the popups persist.  They're the new universal caption for New Yorker cartoons!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Range Visit

     I think it went okay.

     That's a hundred rounds of CCI through my Ruger Mk. II at 21 feet, after a hundred or so into another target using the Ruger and H&R "Sportsman" revolver.  I'm a bit irked by those four flyers out in the ten-ring; the main blob of shots also creeps into it but they're relatively tightly grouped. 

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Saturday At Last

     I think I will post a nice photograph and head for the range!

     There's a trick to this one.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Oh, Darn -- I Skipped The President's Town Hall On Guns

     So that meant I missed him admitting to skeet-shooting at Camp David but calling himself "not much of a marksman."  Which may explain why his approach to talking about firearms laws is scattershot and ill-aimed.

     Reading even CNN's coverage of their own event, the President stuck to his message, which consists mostly of fantasies like implying anyone, anywhere, can purchase any firearm at all over the Internet and have it shipped to their door without any risk, any consequences.  Yeah, go looking for that; find me that site fulla machine guns that only wants a PayPal transfer-- It doesn't exist.  Look at the big gun-auction sites and it's all FFL-required: if you buy one of those guns, it gets shipped to a dealer in your state, who runs a background check on you.

     Asked why he doesn't mention the steadily-declining murder rate, even as Americans buy record numbers of gun, he tapdanced away without ever really touching it.

     But my, how the NRA was criticized, for refusing to attend an event run by a man who has never passed up a chance to paint them as bad, bad folks, airing on a network that has a long history of doing the same.

     This is campaigning and pressure-politics, make no mistake; the President hopes to stampede Congress into doing what he cannot, making all private sales illegal and, if similar laws passed in some states are any example, making it a Federal crime to lend a gun to someone else, even for a few minutes at a range.  He has no answer for how this is supposed to stop criminals, who already obtain most of their guns illegally; he wants it and refuses to see its uselessness against crime and its burden on the law-abiding.

     Online comments in local news this morning included the old, "Why don't we treat guns like we treat cars?" What, stick a unique identifying number on them and apply a special tax?  That already happens. Or maybe extend "full faith and credence" to state-issued operator's licenses among all fifty states and assorted territories?  'Cos I can legally drive my car in any of them; I can only carry my gun lawfully in a few of them.  What, not what you meant?  Shut up; grownups are talking.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Gun Stuff: Pro Tip

     Here's a hint, kids: if you're going to go gun-shopping, do not do so while obviously stoned to the gills.  In particular, do not ride around in the Magic Van inhaling the smoke from the herb of the fields (or just basking in it) and then go in to the boomstick shop reeking of ganja.  You see, on the 4473 form, Section A, question 11.e., it asks "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" followed at the end of the part you fill out by, "I certify that my answers to Section A are true, correct and complete...." over your signature.

     It is quite literally a Federal crime to give false answers on that form.  If the nice clerk at the gun store takes the form you have filled out, does the seller's sections and calls in to the NICS background check knowing you have said "No" to A.11.e. while sharing pot smoke strong enough to cause sneezing fits on the other side of the showroom, they would be complicit in a Federal crime.  Generally, gun store employees are not interested in committing Federal crimes.  They're probably going to ask you nicely to come back another time, when you are, ahem, perhaps more yourself?

     This is not to say marijuana Prohibition -- or any other drug law -- is necessarily Good and Right.  Personally, I think all those laws need to go; in my opinion, all they do is enrich and empower a criminal class while turning potential misdemeanants* into for-sure felons.  It is, however, The Law, right there in ordinary typeset, and avoiding the breaking of it is trivially easy, what with the handy listing of prohibited and controlled substances. 

     In the Olden Days of, say, twenty years ago, the retail gun biz ran somewhat heavily to cigarette smokers.  Tobacco has fallen out of fashion and indoor smoking bans (another stupid law -- I like the fresher air, but it's not my store and it doesn't belong to the City Council or State Legislature, either) have become the norm.  The average salesperson at a gun store these days is a little younger, in a little better shape, and probably a non-smoker.  They're going to notice the Eau d'Mary-Jane and, having noticed, can't pretend they haven't. And then they're going to have to Just Say No.
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* Sorry kids, intoxicated is intoxicated and public overindulgence to the point of becoming a problem is not going to cease to be so just because the cause was Toledo Windowbox rather than Stoli.  Too harsh?  Too bad. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Rotogravurism*

     People keep doing it.  It's supposed to be funny: you get an unflattering image of some outgroup or person you don't like, especially some "candid" snapshot, and you slap it up on the Internet, maybe with some stereotyped caption or a little Photoshopping.

     As an exercise in team-identification, I suppose it works fine.  But it's really not all that funny.  Yeah, yeah, George Bush or Hillary Clinton next to movie villains or venomous creatures, aren't they so much alike?  Black Lives Matter protesters or Ferguson rioters with minstrel-show dialog, open carriers or rural protesters tagged by lines filched from Hee-Haw, what the hell does that prove?

     Yeah, they look like jerks.  Trip the shutter at the wrong moment and we all look like jerks, stereotypes, half-wits -- because sometimes, maybe a lot of the time, we all are.

     People who feel desperate, people who think they're unheard, often choose annoying, wrong-footed ways to try to get heard.  Others just like to watch the world burn, and want to snatch what they can from the flames.  It's not funny, it's tragic.  It's even tragic when you disagree with their message or think it's grounded in fallicies.  It's more tragic when they're just looters, scaring -- hurting -- the innocent and vulnerable.

     You don't have to like 'em, you don't even have to respect 'em much and I sure hope you're willing to present alternative opinions -- but cheap jokes are just cheap.  Leave that stuff for the Three Stooges or Abbot and Costello.  They were willing to be their own saps rather than mocking random strangers.  "Ooo, them guys, they're just stooooopid," isn't debate and it doesn't stop genuine malefactors, it's just more hostility heaped on the fire.

     How badly do you want to watch the world burn? Isn't that where you keep all your stuff?
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* As in rotogravure.  Don't ask your Mom, she won't remember either.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

President Vs. Those Baaaad Guns

     So far, the score is zero and the audience -- other than ABCNNBCBS and their piping offspring -- is having trouble staying awake.

     The Administration's big-chance, don't-mess-it-up Executive Order on guns says, "What you've been doing?  Yeah, continue to do that." It didn't even make anything illegaller.

     They are going to do what crazy old Uncle Wayne LaPierre keeps saying at press conferences: enforce the laws already on the books.  How crazy does he look now?

     There's an Indy 1500 Gun Show coming up* weekend after next and it will be interesting to see the effect of the "And this time, we're serious!" Executive Order on attendance and on the two or three multi-table hobby traders I see at the shows.

     The frog-boiling side of this goes back to the Clinton-era crackdown on "kitchen table gun dealers," in which Federal Firearms Licensees who did not have a brick-and-mortar business establishment found themselves getting ratted out to zoning boards and otherwise having their business activities made more difficult.  This shut down a lot of the small-time dealers, who were (among other things) going to gun shows and running Federal background checks on prospective buyers as required of FFLs no matter the venue in which they are trading; they got out of the business, scaled way back and stopped turning a profit, and/or went with Collector Curio & Relic FFLs, a hobbyist-level license.  This was hailed as a great victory over the Forces of Evil.

     It's a new day and the Administration wanted a new great Victory.  Knowing the media know slightly less about firearms laws than pigs,† they went with a restatement of existing law and a square-jawed resolve to go enforce the laws already passed.  Oh, and they're planning to expand the FBI background check center to a 24/7 operation.  On cue, the Major Media are cheering their bold new steps...marching in place.

     All right, then, get to it.

     Throw us back into that briar patch!
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* This morning, McAfee Site Advisor has blocked www.indy1500.com: "High Risk: Weapons, Malicious Site."  Yeah, there's malice, all right -- on the part of whoever flagged it, unless the Indy 1500 site has been hacked, which I doubt.

† You can read that sentence two ways.  They're both correctly descriptive.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Monday?

     Yes, it is, and there's a whole 2016 out there, with Presidential addresses, primaries and then elections.

     I'm still not impressed.  A commenter praised their primary pick as being the best of a bad lot, and clearly felt that was sufficient.  When it comes to politicians, we're like famine victims picking over last year's potatoes, trying to find one with the least amount of rot and delighted when we do.  "Hardly any bad spots at all!"  That's not a good trend; eventually you're eating shoe leather -- or voting in the least-bad despot.  As Rome went, so are we.  Try, at least, to not cheer as it happens.  There's no eating around the bad spots in government.

     Would it help if I moped around the house all day, complaining?  

Sunday, January 03, 2016

You've Been Watching This Mess In The Middle Of Nowhere?

     Apologies to Burns, Oregon, but you really are a long way past the last trolley stop.

     My prediction: the Feds will wait.  May take a long while.  Uncle Sam can have the event catered.  The guys occupying the wildlife refuge building can't.  Don't think for a minute the Feds didn't learn a little from Ruby Ridge and Waco, at least about what "bad PR" means.  I'm darned sure they learned from the Indianapolis Baptist Temple standoff  -- in which they simply stood off as long as it took.

     This situation -- look it up, you can find the long, sad history on the Web -- is a classic example of frog boiling.  By the time the frog jumps, it's too late.

     Much to be learned here.  Nothing to be won.  And that's sad.

     Note for future reference: make noise about bad situations sooner.*  Make it where's there's good cellphone service and a big airport isn't far away.  You can't whup 'em in a straight-up fight -- but play it right and you've got a chance to do so on The Internet and TV screens.  These guys?  Not a chance.  And that's a pity.
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* It's nearly always too early or too late.  Timing is critical -- too soon and you're a paranoid nut.  Too late and, surprise, you're still a paranoid nut -- and the injustice you have suffered is the new normal.

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year

     I'm typing this in 2015.  You're reading it in 2016.  If it weren't for my Mom, Tamara, the cats and my few RL friends, I would not be joining you.

     I have no interest in the actual future.  It looks pretty damn bleak.  Our next President is going to be worse than what we have now (and Present Occupant at 1600 Penn. is set to take a whizz all over the Second Amendment any day now, probably in his State of the Union speech); there's not a one of the candidates who understands the Bill of Rights or has more than a lip-service grasp of the notion of "limited government."  Every last one of them would bite the had head off a bald eagle to get the job -- and that's the bowdlerized version of my opinion of them

     Meanwhile, World War Three is spinning up in the MidEast.  We can count of President Next and his or her Congress to make the most of it, at our expense.

     2016 arrives with heavy freight -- and more of the same every day.  Mind your manners, mind the gap, mind your back.