Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cue Theme Music! Also, Presidential Candidate Shortage

'Cos yesterdaze thrillin' episode of Whatever It Is We Do Here resulted in partial success! At least, it had as of the time I skedaddked last evening. Handsome Dave[1] and I had all three RF finals in the stardrive array running, albeit the one with which we have most recently been frobbing [2] was sitting at about 50% when we left. Today's effort should allow us to get it back to full power. We hope.

Last evening, I was reading the novel Hope, from Aaron Zellman and L. Neil Smith, which features a libbytarian Hero of the sort we never see (Barry Goldwater notwithstanding) and it occurred to me to wonder why not. The answer's simple: freedom types tend to be self-actualized and internally validated. We don't respond well to Great Leaders and rarely become them ourselves. Political candidates, on the other hand, crave external validation. It's part of what drives them.

...That explains why Fred dropped out and why he never seemed all that interested in the race: he would have liked the job but he didn't need it and all the attention and stroking that comes with running for it in the way that his competitors in both parties do. And it explains why the LP struggles election cycle after cycle to come up with a Presidential candidate and gives birth instead to mice and/or engaging fringe types.

Of course, it also explains why it is I have driven several bosses into boiling rages when they have asked me what time I plan to end my day and I have innocently replied, "When I'm done." It was a surprise to me yesterday to look at my big ol' starship-engineer wristwatch and realize it was the 30th already!

1. Don't be jealous, o admiring (hah!) minions (hahah!). I'm not his type; he likes 'em blonde, smallish and highly decorative in addition to not being stupid.

2. Or frobnosticating. It's old technoid slang and highly self-deprecating in this context, bein' the lowest form of technological manipulation, beneath "tweak" and "twiddle"

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Re-AMORCing* The Irradiator

Once again, I've not posted for a few days and, yes, it's the stardrive array.

The good news: it's not the RF final we fixed last week. That one was back on and at full power along about 0300 Saturday ayem (a time when mere mortals must sleep! Or should, anyway). When a different one of the three took unplanned leave Friday evening, we unshipped the 32 Volt/180 Ampere (!) power supply assembly (a heavy lapful of loose parts and wire harness) from the one that had failed and stuffed it into the previously-failed one, which needed, as nearly as could be determined, only that, and cello [1], it came up and ran like a champ!

The bad news is, that meant we now had a stardrive with two known problems and probably another; and that's what I've head my head stuck in since Monday.[2]

We're not going to make Rigel 4 in time for the Pork Festival. Which may be a good thing. (Check two posts back).

In Other News: back in the Homeport slightly realer world, straight-line winds and a possible tornado knocks down tree limbs and forced rainwater in around an attic window at my house, wetting down some recently-installed insulation. Just as well I was reminded to weatherstrip that window before installing wallboard. Further damage report awaits the dawn.

I cannot await the dawn and thus must bid thee adieu. Or as the French say(?), "happy snails!"

* "AMORC" 'cos we gotta get the lights and power back on, see?

1. Or is that "viola?" Some kinda string instrument.

2. Also shoulders, both arms, upper body, etc.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm So Proud

...To have been chosen as the model for Virgin Galactic's new logo! Just wish someone would have told me about it.

(Seriously, I look more like the painting than the actual model. Even more seriously, how are they maintaining the helmet's pressure integrity around a ponytail? This could be important to the cuter spacechix like Tam and me. I'm afraid it may be a clip-on).

The news-ish version is here and here. Kewl stuff!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"You look marvelous"

Possibly even better with a side of fries.

Umm... Oh, yes, I deliberately gamed the quiz. My real score is the same as Breda's, 59%. So, really, only the lean ones who are carrying maybe a little garlic or some rosemary should worry.

Gosh, I'm simply vile today. Had another "stardrive" failure last evening; ate, depressurized, went back in about eleven. Worked most of the night and managed to make one good one out of two bad ones, so now we have one majorly malfed device that'll have to be troubleshot from Square Zero. And I'm behind on sleep and housekeeping. Yay.

Mixed Reactions To The Cthulhu Candidacy

The pundits have spoken!
Funny Pictures
moar funny pictures

My Candidate Endorsement

I'd been dithering, torn between Fred Thompson and he-who-shall-not-be-named (luaP noR; a good-enough guy or as close as we'll see but naming him draws his zombies, alas).

Mr. Thompson neatly solved that one for me (umm, gee, thanks?), but I'm still a bit iffy on the other fellow; a vote for him would at least put a mild thrill of fear into the Stupid wing of the Party Of Treason [1]. I was even, for awhile, giving thought to registering Evil wing/Party Of Treason this time and voting for Kucinnich, who while being quite evil indeed and of the worst, I-know-what's-best-for-you-ignernt-masses sort, at least seems to be having a little darned fun with it, but he chickened out, too.[2]

Okayfine. Kevin has the perfect candidate:

The happiest day of my life is gonna be when that vast and indescribably hideous, sticky-green, tentacle-faced form stumbles and shudders down Pennsylvania Avenue leaving a trail of powerfully acidic slime and a smell that will shrivel men's minds and souls, squelches up to the platform and eats the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the outgoing Chief Executive and everyone else within reach of those long, rubbery arms and flabby claws. [3]

DC's already a city of unnatural angles found in no Earthly geometry and architectural abominations constructed to no human purpose or scale. The dead and dreaming dread god will feel at home there as if he was settling down upon his ceremonial bier in sunken R'lyeh. After a month or two and a million deaths or so, shoggoths will seem as familiar on the streets as city buses. And by then Cthulhu will have eaten most of the Islamic terrorists and washed 'em down with crude oil steaming-fresh from the well. It'll be a whole new age -- at least for those among the survivors who are quick to adapt.

It'll be a new lease on life, too, for most of the Congresscritters and the Veep, in the most literal manner -- and the publically-visible parts of them will still look mostly human. Well, at least as much as they do now.

Cthulhu fhtagn! Cthulhu fhtagn! Cthulhu fhtagn!

Might as well.
1. You call 'em whatever you want but in my world, we have the Stupid and Evil wings of the Party Of Treason, which works to undermine the Constitution and Bill of Rights while increasing the power of central government and which has controlled this country at least since the Whigs were put down, and then the "other parties:" Klingons (good but ignored) and the Fire-Loathers (evil and not ignored enough). I usually vote Klingon in the real elections and have been known to vote Stupid/Party of Treason in the beauty pageants in a vain attempt to aim their tiny little pointy heads at the light of reason.

2. Readers do understand that this is the "vote for the weakest candidate of party you least like in the primary" trick, right?

3. Basic concept taken from Lewis Black, though his suggestion was to elect Ronald Reagan's corpse to the office. Compared to what's on the table, not an unappealing idea.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Speaking Of Work

"Hideous reptilian abnormalities." That's all I've got to say. It's all I can say -- I asked an attorney.

(A nod to Turk Turon for the reminder).

The Cinema

The movie by David Malki ! is out! If you've seen (one too many) Bond films, you need to see Expendable.

...And now I have to go fix the stardrive.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

And Sometimes The Trouble Chews Off Your Back Pockets

It's never easy -- if it was, everybody would be out here explorin' the Universe in a huge JBFL[1] starship, right? -- but today is well past "ridiculous."

Started just as planned and we even bypassed the Seriously Big Voltage Regulator with no actual pantswetting.

Did the warming-up thing, staged so that the three RF Cabinets would not all come up at once. Left the recently-repaired one for last 'cos, well, just 'cos it puts us back underway with the "sure thing" coming online first.

At last it's time, BEAM ON. Step one, Thunk...tic-tic-tick...Snap! Step two complete and we' --Holy howlin' heck! Lookit the output meter wiggle! Plus and minus five percent? Erratic? Hey! They're not supposed to do that! STANDBY. H'mm. Not back to normal temp? Try again... Same result. And once more for luck, a longer run, watching as the variation becomes ever more erratic, noting a few other readings, like the grid drive, doing the same thing. H'mm. The driver amp?

Nope, an half-hour later, it's one of the two high-current DC supplies that run the driver amp; and an hour after that, it's for sure that supply and not the primary power or control logic.

Which means, in layman's terms, "The thing is not fixed yet." Turns out they don't make that kind any more, either; there's a whole little kit to install, with two new DC supplies, which can be ours for a price that would buy an okay used car.

So we move onto another item to repair on the stardrive, opening up the box marked "RF processor, QTY 1," and find instead a C and Ku-band digital receiver. Que? Ansible. Factory: "We sent you a what? Oh, so you're the ones who got that. And you need a...? Okay, heh heh heh, sorreee, we'll courier that out to you overnight."

Okay, fine, plenty more to do, the dual redundant system that connects the Control Room to the Drive compartment has been unhappy and there's a spare to install for that, too... One that turns out to be a slightly different model that -- after another call to a different factory -- needs a few extra parts to actually do the things we need it to do. Apologies. Promises of rapid delivery.

And so on, for an entire day. Oh, the glamor just never ever runs out, does it?
1. Just Barely Faster Than Light. Which, as it turns out, is plenty fast enough. Sure, it violates causality, but it does so like Daylight Savings Time, by making causality a tiny bit more inflexible everywhere else. And there's a minimum power level required, not proportional to mass until a certain, middlin' large amount of mass is reached. --This is utter fiction, of course, but I'm thinking seriously of adding another blog for this sort of thing, called "I Work Aboard A Starship." It's about 10 miles long and three wide at the widest point, with the stardrives way out in front at the end of the long boom and the control room (and most of the rest of the ship) at the far end.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sometimes You Shoot Trouble. Other Times, The Trouble Trees You, Barking

And let's just say the cuffs of my jeans are well-frayed right about now. The "trouble" here is in the main RF cabinet of one third of what we shall call the stardrive array. Each RF cabinet is about two and a half refrigerators in size and considerably less easy to get inside.

So, there we were, Handsome Dave an' me, stepping our way through Using The Stardrive's 36kV Supply To Locate Its Own Problems. It should be cut'n'dried but somehow it never is. There was, of course, one step not in the manual, and the part it would test was something that just should not be a problem, a thing very overbuilt for the task. And every step takes forty minutes or more. You have to talk about what you're going to do before you get into the very noisy compartment (Hearing Protection Required For Your Safety) where the stardrive is mounted and before that, you have to figure out what it is you'll be doing; there are mandatory cool-down and warm-up times and so on.

Step by slow step, we approached this one item; and when we got there, lo! Oh, the shock and wonderment! Scarcely a mark on it, yet-- It had failed!

Briefly, there was much rejoicing. Then... Well, you don't stock parts unlikely to fail, do you? H'mmm. Oh, but wait; we'd upgraded every part of the original stardrive except the phantasmajectrode[1] and its so-called "trolley" back in '01 and I had, over the objections of Wiser Heads, removed every part small enough to lift and stashed them away in the structure. Could it be?

Twenty minutes later, it seemed like maybe not, and then I lifted away a very nearly complete Hydrogen Thyratron Crowbar assembly[2] out of a nest of plastic packing, the sharpest-lookin' (but one of the least vain) tech-d00d in the biz reached into the packing to see if any interesting things had fallen off, and put his hand directly on the exact component we needed. The factory techs had called it the "dynamite stick" and it does look like a fat stick of TNT. (It's a custom high-voltage part).

We went back to the stardrive compartment, I wriggled my way into the crowded, awkward innards of the device (poking away at all the high-voltage-while-operating spots with a shorting hook, 'cos all live stuff is always live until tested, in the exact same way all guns are loaded all the time) , unhooked and dismounted the old part (nice little side-trip into "oh, that's a metric fastener, then?"), got the new one all in, clicked the large (and ever so fragile, easy, easy...) isolation resistor back into its brackets, eeled back out, disconnected the shorting hook, we reinstalled the cover plates with most of the proper bolts, kicked all the breakers back on, flipped the big earthing[3] switch, engaged the smaller "isolation" switch that pins it in place and enables everything but the 36kV, went around to the front and started the ten-minute warm-up cycle.

...A dozen minutes later, the "READY" light came on, my erstwhile peer hit the "BEAM" button and our hours of step-by-tedious step were rewarded when the high voltage came up, step one, and a couple ticks later later, the second step kicked in and it was back at full beam voltage... Hoo--

--ray? Click-THUD! The "BIAS OK" led on the status panel goes out and the 'drive shuts all the way back down to "PREHEAT" Won't even go back to "STANDBY" until we kick it to "OFF," at which point we can start over from scratch and it proceeds exactly as before, right up to the point where it shuts itself off. Third try for luck and...same thing. Went back to the workshop, called the factory[4], hit the books while waiting to hear back, and found nothing at all to explain this behavior. When the factory called us back, they agreed. "Never heard of that," said the tech, "and I've seen about everything these gadgets can do wrong." Ummm, thanks?

Tried a number of things and ran out of time. No joy. But hey, the high voltage does come up; it wasn't doing that at all before! Progress must have been made.

The next day, a bold plan: We'd lie to the status circuit; with the phantasmajectrode out of the circuit (and it had been from the moment high voltage troubleshooting began), there was no need of the bias-checking thingamabob. So we tried it. No dice. BEAM ON. Handsome Dave says "Flame on!" (I flinch and plead, "Pleeeze don't put it that way." He grins ever so slightly). Count about three and..."BIAS OK" goes out ("But it can't go out!" "It just did. Fourth time.") Rats.

Found and cleaned some suspicious-looking spots on the circuit board. Maybe...?
This takes us to lunchtime. Came back from lunch found, about three hours in, one (1) tiny difference between this particular model and the other two stardrives in the main drive array. Rechecked. Looks wrong.

Made the change, restarted. Success! Now it's back to step-by-step and each step is 40 minutes but each one works!

Ah? Ah-aaaah! I've been holdin' out on you. Since even before all this happened, there has been another problem, this one in the serious bigtime primary power regulator that provides the juice for the stardrives, and the factory that made it seemed to not be answering their ansible. Until we get it either A) happy or B) bypassed, we can't run all three 'drives at the same time. We can't bypass it hot; we have to power down the entire drive array and if we are extremely lucky, it will take a minimum of 30 minuted to accomplish it and get the drive back on.

So of course we call the bridge and of course the Captain says, "Go black? At this time? D'you realize how many complaints we're going to get? The disruption?"

...It's about the end of another day anyway, so we schedule a better time and knock off. All that work and we're still not at full power! I think we're not gonna be at tau Ceti in time for lunch, kids.

So, how was your day?
1. Hey, does it not sound a zillion times niftier than "Inductive Output Tube?" It does.

2. You're not gonna believe me when I admit that's the real name of the device and subassembly, are you? But it is. And it handles atomic-physics-lab energy levels for a very short time when it's triggered, too.

3. As in, "Oh, that's a metric fastener?" "Earthing" = "grounding." Our stardrives were designed in the UK and built in the US using parts from all over. Most of the fasteners are SAE but the tuned cavities and support assembly for the phantasmajectrode and a few other special items still bolt up British.

4. If it wasn't for the
ansible, working on these things would be way worse!

Happy Happy Birthday Birthday

It's a happy, happy time! The kewlest geek ever gets his cake an' presents today (or he would if he hadn't've passed to that great machine-shop in the sky long ago) and his favoritest great-goddaughter (at least she would be if he'd've met her) celebrates the anniversary of her debarkation onto this planet tomorrow!

Happy Birthday, John Moses Browning, and thanks for all the guns!
Happy Birthday, Tamara S&W K!*

Please, go out and shoot a target or a tasty food animal or at least a tin can or a varmit, to show that you care.

(For my part, I've been shooting trouble since Sunday!)
* "Smith & Wesson" may not actually be her middle name but you should see her grin when ya say it is.

Blog? I Have A Blog?

Heap big malfunctions at Skunk Works North Campus -- if it really was a stardrive, we'd be on the edge of droppin' right out of warp -- resulting in long days and therefore about zero bloggage.

It all started Sunday, interrupting a fine day of attic-insulation with the Data Viking. So it's still chillier than I'd like in here (though less than it was) and DV had to stare over my shoulder for a couple of hours while I tried things that didn't solve the problem.

Three days later, we've found one thing that was a definite show-stopper but others remain. And each step takes an extra 30 - 40 minutes 'cos the "stardrive" has to cool down, access covers have to be unbolted, one does $WHATEVER, reassembles, and there's a 10-minute warm-up cycle. Are we havin' fun yet?

Meanwhile, Tam tells us the stock market's tanking. Cheerleaders keep claimin' the States have now got an "information economy" as opposed to making, oh, cars, water heaters and kitchen tables, or growin' tasty comestibles. Well, fine, as long as all the plates we like to call Global Civilization are spinnin' and balanced atop the poles, that does generate a lotta bucks but you know what's the real problem with it? When the plates fall, "information" is something you can't eat, drink or sleep in, on, under or with. You can't smoke it and it won't dance with you. It's...nothing. When the barbarians are at the gate, you cannot scare 'em off with software or algebra or ray-tracing. Even Archimedes, the original mad-scientist-with-a-ray-gun, had to have physical artifacts to put his cleverness to use.

So good luck, "information economy." Ghu, steady the hands of those who spin and balance the plates; 'cos it'll stink on ice if it all falls down. Gonna be mighty cold sleepin' on a park bench under a downy layer of information.

Oh, and the next nattering nitwit who tells me about the "free market" here in the States gets to write "Feds Step In, Stabilize Falling Market" on his own forehead 500 times with a fine ballpoint. "Managed" does not equal "free." Idiot.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It Is Cold In Here

It's not just me. I've found significant air leaks into my basement along the North and South walls; the West wall's leaking cold air on the ground floor, at the baseboards. I've filled the bigger gaps with backer rod (closed-cell foam) but caulking or other methods will have to wait. (can't foam it with the furnace running and the aroma of even low-VOC caulk's a bit much to sleep in. No wonder it's been so chilly at floor level!

You have to wonder -- was a serious coat of dust keeping the gaps plugged for the previous owner? It's not impossible, some of the worst leaks are where I replaced the floor of the room I use as an office and had vacuumed very carefully around the sills when we had the old floor out.

At least I found it. I was starting to think I'd gone poikothermic.

The Wrangler Rides On

It appears Marko has moved his blog to, having had very little fun with Blogger in recent days.

I'm gettin' along with Blogger fine, but I'm not all that ambitious: bright colors and okay fonts and I'm happy.

Free Advice

Worth what it costs, too. Just so y'know.

First, the question:
"What's the safest .45 for concealed carry?"

Next, the stunning answer:
The one you are familiar with, have trained with, can and will carry each and every day and are prepared to use when the need arises. It would be the one you do not play with or treat casually. It would be the .45 that you keep your lunch hook off the bang switch of until you are intending to shoot. It would be the .45 the muzzle of which you do not allow to cover anything you're not okay with putting a hole at least a half-inch in diameter through. It would be the .45 that's in your hand when you are sure of your target and what's behind it. It would be the .45 you keep out of the reach of irresponsible children -- and train your responsible children to operate properly, safely and only under adult supervision, okay?

Like the apocryphal Russian Army sergeant said, "Is gun. Is not safe." No weapon is inherently safe. That's your job.

My carry .45's a Star model PD. It's small, light, torque-y and has Star's usual arrangement for their 1911-looking letter-series models, a "safety" that locks the hammer, with the control lever in the usual 1911 position operating in the usual way. The primary safety device for this gun, as for all guns, would be the operator's limited good sense. How's yours?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hello, Hello!

See, I am still here.

A messed-up week, though, including a split shift followed by a quick turnaround, which allowed me to change of the frame of the delightful and highly critical digital television device over which I have been fretting, the end result being, so far, made of win! Plus I made myself a perfectly marvelous breakfast during the quick turnaround.

The HDTV thingie is of a degree of complexity and dullness you would not want to hear, plus it's Big Media Company Secret Skunk Works Stuff, so I wouldn't anyway. Ahh, but the breakfast...! That's another story.

Start with about four strips of peppered bacon (if they don't stock this in your markets, you are Beyond The Borders Of Civilization; buy some bacon and apply about three pinches of coarse black pepper). Cut 'em in half and fry crisp (but not burned! Just barely crisp, okay?) in a large skillet or wok (best). While they are frying up, take a large giant portabella mushroom cap or two, or a package of regular-size mushrooms (portabellas preferred, mixed exotics are good, plain ordinary ones will do) and dice into about 1/4" to 3/8" cubes.

When the bacon is done, set it aside on some paper toweling to drain. You should have "about enough" grease in the pan, enough to cover the bottom but not deep. Pour off as needed but keep it handy, in case. Pour carefully -- all the really good stuff is down at the bottom.
Toss in the mushrooms and fry, turning as need be. You can add a shake of Cajun seasoning if you'd like. (It's good!) While this is going on, take two or three eggs (two if you buy Jumbos*, three otherwise) and stir them up well in a small container using a fork or chopstick.

When the mushrooms are not quite done, push them to the outer edges of the skillet or wok, turn up the heat, pour in the eggs and scramble them like the Furies, using a chopstick (or fork, if you don't have to worry about scratching the pan -- but chopsticks work better). You'll have to pick your own level of done-ness for the eggs, preferences vary.

Once the eggs suit you, take the skillet or wok off the heat, crumble the bacon in, and stir it up well.

Serve as is (should serve two people or one if she's hungry enough). Refinements include topping with chopped fresh chives, cheese and/or hot sauce (try Cholula or Vietnamese "Rooster" sauce).

It'll get you through a long day!
* I keep trying to hatch the extra ones 'cos it would be chou-kawaii to hatch out a baby elephant but it never happens. It's sooooo unfair!!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tuesday, Tuesday

...What a waste! Not totally -- met a new cat while visiting a local sharpshooter, a grey, gold and brown tabby that simply adopted him in a parking lot (he's catomagnetic). A very nice critter, she curled up in my lap and purred and purred. Looks like a tiny tiger with eyeliner.

Other than that, work, work: went 'round and round with The Phone Company about some video issues, fretted more over the thingie I was fretting over last week, had a disturbing report from the North Campus and finished up some odds and ends...and came home to a decent book (Elizabeth Moon) and a fine dinner of Purina Girl Chow salad, with shredded mozarella and plenty of good olives.

So I'm not complaining. At least the snow mostly melted and tomorrow should be warmish (40!). Way colder by the weekend, wouldn't you know.

Where'd Monday Go?

Time doesn't stop just 'cos I am reading? Hmpf!

"Tires a-squeal
Like they're skidding
Rain to ice, now it's glist'ning
Don't want to know
If it's turned to snow
Looks like it is Winter in the land..."

Rained and snowed overnight. Snowed this morning. Stopped while I worked. Started up again prior to my drive home, came down pretty well while I bought dinner, stopped so I could sweep the walks (cold enough that it's powder, at least), then started up again. I haven't looked for awhile, iis it.... Nope. Whew! Just colder'n, ahem, than it should be.

And on that note, dear friends, I shall check the dryer (warm nightgown, oooooo!), flip the quilt back and turn in. "Turn down, turn in, doze off." Right?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Wotta Day!

Data Viking e-mailed Friday about havin' some free time and I didn't see it 'til about 2:late Saturday, alas.

Sunday remained and we were off to the big gun show! This was interesting -- I'm pretty much a handgunner and DV...well, he likes rifles. He knows rifles pretty well, too, though he points out that it's been years. So we made interesting and varied progress, parting and catching up as out interests pulled us hither and yon!

We're in agreement on a number of things, like Para's Warthog is a bit too much a handful despite looking kewl, and while semi-auto adaptations of big machine guns are superneat they are just not really the Thing Of Choice for a zombie apocolypticycle and are expensive to feed, to boot.

I saw a Colt Combat Commander, shiny-plated and with modest engraving rather than the Baroque floridity usually seen and really liked it. Oh, some day? Said Hi to Famous SF Writer (also blogger and all-round okay guy with a wonderful family and so on) M. Z. Williamson, wandered on to look at a pair of marvelous Broomhandle Mausers and then a nice fellow showed me a very convenient sort of pocket knife; which is when I discovered I had brought no checks with me, none at all. Nevertheless, a very full and busy day.

...And not yet done. After all that, good ol' DV helped me put up new insulation in the bare spots of my semi-finished attic! That's been wanting done for a long while and should help lots with the heat bills. I still need to do the end walls but the roof was just about impossible to attempt alone. Well, the hard parts are done now -- Thanks, DV! You're the best!

He's on the road home in the snow and sleet.
And it's past my bedtime now, early though it is.

Album Meme

It's interesting how this works!

From Squeaky:

"The Band Meme

"Here’s how it goes. You are about to have your own band’s CD cover. Follow these directions to the letter. It’s fun and requires no thought at all. Go to……

1. first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4. Use your graphics program of choice to throw them together, and post the result in your own journal because it’s more amusing that way."

I'm thinkin' some kind of lite jazz. Hey, maybe Brazilian?!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

One-Try Addiction: Pratchett, T.

One hears the tales of drugs so tricky that it only takes a single exposure and blammo! You're hooked for life.

I wouldn't know. Smoking cigarettes took me almost as much effort to start as it did fifteen years later to stop and I had the advantages(?) of youth, incipient juvenile delinquency and having grown up around smokers.

The effect of any such drug is as nothing, a sigh in a windstorm, compared to impact of the wondrous world Terry Pratchett has created!

It took about six pages into one (1) book (Going Postal) and I was aitch-oh-oh-kay-ee-dee addicted.

If you haven't read any of the Discworld books, you've missed one of the finer treats. Cross Cyril Kornbluth's take on fantasy with Heinlein's politics and toss in a generous spoonful of "Monty Python" and "Red Dwarf" and you're starting to approximate it. What I've read so far (One Entire Book, With Blurbs) would have been right at home in the long-gone and much-missed fantasy mag Unknown but would have outshone anything ever printed in it, up to and perhaps including "Magic, Inc."*

My thanks to the many friends who recommended this author!
* A citation from memory that took fifteen minutes to verify, including an enjoyable digression into a magazine article about RAH's self-designed home in Colorado Springs. Alas, I've yet to see one as complete about his circular house in Bonny Doon, CA, which is instantly familiar as a smaller version of Jubal Harshaw's home in Stranger In A Strange Land.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Aliens Have Not Abducted Me

Darn the luck! They always go after some rural type with a third-grade diploma. Probably just as well.

No, I'm enjoying (?) a spot of bother with Digital Television. Cross the dependability of Windows with the user-friendliness of Unix and throw in the physical reliability of a 15-year-old PC, and you're close to the the device with which I am wrestling.

So far, it's ahead, two falls for two.

Can't touch it right now so I am borrowing a few minutes.

I'm saving up for a really big sledgehammer. Want in?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sky By Rene Magrite

Shot at work this evening. In fact, I loped back to the shop and grabbed a camera when I saw this through the window. And that's all needs to be said.

If You Knock At This Door

Who or what answers?
I may have to go back and get a better photo. Here, it seems to be a disenframed portal, floating magically vertical in the darkness; it's actually up against a tree and in daylight, looks as if it might be a door in. --You knock, I read about wood sprites as a child and I am not gonna bother one!

So I Hear

...Some folks don't believe I have the very latest in modern communications equipment here at Roseholme* Cottage. Ha! See?

I'll point out that's a main line sounder and Vibroplex's very latest bug, with the factory's own Vari-Speed, too. While the Royal mill does happen to be second-hand, it has their very newest "fingertip-friendly" keycap. "Not modern." Foo!

On a related note, I became disconcertingly amused at the Skunk Works yesterday when the phrase, "I'm as happy as a chimp eating a brand-new telephone" occurred to me. In my defense (and that of fans of Magrite and Dali everywhere), it had been a long day and we'd found several examples of how we keep buying books and buying books and they just keep eating the covers.

* Named after the family grant of arms, which features a "naturally-colored rose on an argent field." Lancaster or York? You've got me there. Oooo, is that a touch-tone? Pass the salt!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Christmas Doll

...I swan, they gave me a Baby Tam doll. Okay, we have to make some allowances-- the T-shirt really should have a S&W logo, or a skull and crossbones, or a ninja riding a unicycle* or suchlike instead of a heart, and she really should have jeans or 511 tacslax instead of a denim skirt, and the vest-pocket .41 seems to have been omitted, but still -- Tam at age 6 or 7? Give or take a cap gun, pretty close. Not that I'd, like, tease her about it or anything.

(Per Mom: "We looked and looked for one with your hair color!" They don't make that kind; hair the color of enamelled copper wire has never been all that popular. Meanwhile, blondes continue to claim to have more fun. Wanna bet?)

I'm keeping this one away from the cats, they tend to become jealous.
* Sold here. I am merely a satisified customer and receive no remuneration.

Monday, January 07, 2008

My Kinda Sentiment

I've been seein' this around town and while scootering to the market tonight, tracked it to its lair, parked in front of a neat little house with a neat little lighted US flag on a pole out front:

First showed up when The Great Property Tax Debacle throttled to full shakedown, just after my first house payment. Mine went from "I can manage this" to "I'm not going to buy any new toys for a long, long time -- and how 'bout that ramen?"

We did get a shiny new mayor and a mostly-new City-County Council out of the deal but it was the State government that "fixed" the real-estate tax assessment methodology. Their ride in the tumbrels won't be for awhile yet. I do so very much hope folks stay irked!

...On the general notion of house payments, I have about made my mind up to look for a boarder of good moral character and compatible interests. Sorry, gents, no boys -- People Would Talk (plus, I'm still gettin' over the last one). Liable to take awhile to even locate suitable candidates but it would make it a lot easier to stay ahead while waiting for my property tax exemptions (for living in my own house and having a mortgage) to take effect.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A Useful Warning

Here in the Heartland, don't try to rob the IGA! Please note the complete lack of "citizens shouldn't try this" in the report. You don't mess with people's grocery stores, you just don't; our cookin' may be plain but we're not about to miss meals for the asymmetrically entrepreneurial, okay?

(Thanks to the handsome and courageous Turk Turon for the link!)

An Impotent Warning

Found by Breda, a vital health warning for all bloggers, especially the boys. I laughed until I cried.

Are you doing the right thing? Please don't tell me. My dreams are quite vivid enough already. (Actually true, last night I dreamed I was punched in the nose -- for cause! Wow, and it was something I'd never have said in that context, either)

The Virtues Of Solitude

Maybe it was twelve years with a man who found professional wrestling fascinating entertainment and who otherwise always had to be Doing Something, Anything -- as long as it didn't involve staying home and making the house better. Maybe it's memories of the halcyon days of summers long past, when all I had to do were a few simple chores and the rest of the day could be spent with a book and a mug of tea. Maybe it's my nature.

Whatever. I like visitors; I adore my friends and it's fun to go and to do. But though I wouldn't miss that for all the world, I have a very keen appreciation of keeping my own company and weathering my own tempers.

Woke this morning in a fairly foul mood: you wake to find a cat has yakked on your quilt for the third day -- and third quilt -- in a row.[1] And yet, until I brush up against the world in the form of my alarm clock going off long after I am vertical or my grrrdammit cellphone once again tripping into "camera" mode from the lightest of touches on the ill-located shutter button,[2] I have only the slightest awareness of my own irritability. Unbothered, with my book, coffee and oatmeal ready to hand, I'm as a serene as a mandarin contemplating the jewel in the lotus.[3] I like my own company. I enjoy being able to spend the whole morning in a robe doing simple household chores, pausing to read when it suits me.

I've had way too much experience with loneliness to discount the virtues of friendship but I'm finding great comfort in having time to myself, too. I don't have to simulate a good (or at least civil) mood. I can mutter, "Howlin' ijts," or far, far worse at the toob when it goes off to wake me[4] and say bad words about the various trivial obnoxii[5] that characterize a weekend mornin' here in the shirker's paradise without being drawn into a bogus discussion of "what's wrong." Nothin's wrong; I'm unwinding.

One of the worst effects the do-gooder Left has had on civil discourse is the damfool notion that there's something wrong with being a bit of a curmudgeon from time to time; we're all expected to reflect the spaced-out bliss of a minor starlet (made up, coiffed and dressed to the nines in artificial materials and synthetic fabrics) expressing her deep love'n'respect for The Earth on an afternoon chat show and if we can't or won't, we're supposed to trot off to have our square heads hammered into the Socially Approved round hole. Well, forget that. Gruff and annoyed behavior was once the prerogative of adults and it still should be. In that tiny part of the world I run, it is. Some mornings, I am the great mother of all dogs and if poked at, I will growl.

It doesn't mean I am discontented. I rather doubt my ire will outlast the dawn but it's mine and I'm gonna enjoy it all by myself!

1. He's ill. I know what the problem is and he's being treated. It does not make dealing with the effects any nicer and neither does his choice of, "Look, Ma, I'm sick," locations.
2. I don't care how cheap or easy it is do do, I don't want a g-dd-mn camera in my telephone. Try and buy one without; all of the cheap ones have A) no way to turn the stupid thing off and B) a shutter button in an easily-bumped place. I'm about ready to open up the phone and yank the sonuva' right out.
3. Is it wrong that this sounds like a euphemism to me? Sheesh, dude, get a date!
4. I'm often stinting myself on sleep, which makes for a real battle to wake up. The television goes off first, followed ten minutes later by the cellphone, followed by the bedside alarm clock ten minutes after that, followed by the cellphone twice, one almost the same time as the clock and the next fifteen minutes later. Some mornings even that is barely enough, especially late in a week of several short nights. Clever? No.
5. I made it up but if ever there was a word that deserved to be, that's it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Busy, Busy

....It appears that having a social life and major blogging are not entirely compatible endeavors -- but it's certainly fun to try!

Still to come, the year-plus retrospective. It's been a busy year; I've got a lot of ground to cover. Three cars, knee surgery, a major death in the family, buying a house-- Not to mention starting the blog and meeting many new friends!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

...The Bubbles Got All Fizzy In My Brain?

...Remember, kids, don't drink and think:

What am I thinking here? H'mmm, maybe: "Do they hunt those giant shrimp with guns? Ooo, wouldn't it be embarrassing if some fisherman got attacked by the giant shrimp? Is that a camera? Look where? Ooops, hahahahahaha."

Oh, Champagne, where is thy -- ow! Oh, there it is.

Tough, I had a great time. Carrie Nation bedarned.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

"'Appy Noo Yeer!" as we say around here! Anyhow, that's how I was sayin' it last night. Somehow, I had managed to go all these many years without ever having had a champagne cocktail (they mix drinks with that stuff? Who knew?). Lost time was made up for.

I would like to give you an honest report on the size of the shrimp in Morton's* but A) you would not believe me even if I'd not just admitted to havin' a wee dram and B) apparently they've hired an agent, who must approve all detailed mention. My dining companion suggested the creatures each had their own ZIP code. And unlike the usual over-fed suburbanite crustacea, these beasts were by no means devoid of taste. Yum!

And that was just the appetizer. The remainder of the trip to 2008's threshold was buoyed upon a chopped salad (the usual stuff but diced fine and with plenty of pickled artichoke), asparagus that had been crept up upon by tiny folk with blowtorches and given just enough heat to lock the flavor, and delightful slabs of beef from cattle that had been slaughtered painlessly in the middle of happy, happy dreams and prepared by cheerful butchers and dazzlingly upbeat chefs. ...Who thoughtfully tucked a little Bearnaise sauce on the side to help maintain the mood. I'm not sure I can mention molten-center double-chocolate cake ala mode with hot fresh coffee without a dreadfully jaded note of crazed lust creeping into my tone even before I get round to describing the dusting of confectioner's sugar and ripe berries that topped the creation.... Oh! Oh! (Be right back, I just have to swoon quickly.... Ahhhhhh).

I'd not wrung in the New Year by wringing out every last bit of enjoyment from a good meal in a nice establishment with convivial companionship for many years; it was very nearly overwhelming, no matter how ordinary it may sound to readers.

Rolled outta bed right at the crack of...10:30!?!? One of those mornings where I first see the clock about eight, think OMG-I-am-late, realize it's a day off, resolve to arise nevertheless, stop to plan my day and suddenly it's 8:45. Repeat process until the cats decide they've had enough and begin patting my face: "Laaaa-deee? Wake up, lady... We neeeeed yooooo, lady. You have the can-opening thumbs, lady... Hey! Lady!" After awhile, feather-touches become the lightest of pinpricks and my guilt sharper still, so much so that as soon as I'm shod** and on my feet, cat-feeding immediately follows.

And so here I am, expressing the hope your own celebrations were as enjoyable and wishing you and yours the very best 2008. Sure, it's like cheering when the odometer ticks over a nice round number but so what: these man-made markers and rituals are how we add more meaning to our lives. They're part of what differentiates us from the ants!
* If I'd had a better idea of how like a good basement speakeasy the place was, I'd'a marcelled my hair an' worn a flapper dress! They do a right fine job of it, too, with a maitre'd of nearly military bearing and a delightfully exotic stock of drinkables. Or has the vast vat of pressed pineapple soaking into vodka become a staple of the American bar?
** Bare-minimum sandals with serious soles, Tevas maybe? I'd wear 'em most of the time if I could: it's like having wings on my feet! Not always the best choice and banned at work by virtue of having open toes, ::sigh::. Y'know, I almost think those boys are bent or something, they're pretty cynical about safety in other ways.