Sunday, November 30, 2008

Breda On Mumbai

Succinct and accurate.  "I wish I had had a gun instead..."  Breda crystalizes the lesson in the moment.

     The photographer's lament has been criticized elsewhere and the critics deftly filleted by Uncle.  Having read the photog's account, the critics are alllll wet; armed police officers were on the scene, hiding, perhaps fearing to make it worse.  Had one armed citizen been able to drop one of the jerks murdering people or even made a try,* it is probable they'd've taken their shot, too: bravery is easier to imitate than originate.

     Soapbox ('cos I'm not Breda and not succinct): someday it may be my turn, or yours.  While I've scant respect for altruism,  in a situation where one encounters villains tramping through killing folk as the whim strikes, there is nothing to lose; odds are you're dead anyway.  Me, I'm taking along an honor guard of civilization's enemies.  I recommend the same to you.  If we're serious about stopping this sort of thing, we must make the cost of it too high for even barbarians to bear by stopping them in the act, as swiftly and violently as we can.   Police and the various TLA-type  agencies are good for picking up after, at containment when possible, even at ferreting out malefactors before they strike but in the moment, it's like a fire, like a car wreck, like flood and tornado: it's up to everyone to do whatever they can.

     Are you prey or are you human?   Better answer it now and make your preparations accordingly.
* It's easy and catchy to call 'em "terrorists" but the term's become dilute and worn from overuse.

Punked Out

...On visiting the outdoor range this morning.  There's snow on the ground, which Tam calls, "Perfect training weather!"  I'm not fond of it but I can cope.  Combined with sinuses that do not want to be here, however, it's a recipe for frustration.  I'll shoot another day or perhaps indoors, later.  In the meantime, I have plenty to do around the house -- and no excuse not to do it.

     Still an' all, I would have liked to shoot the little Ruger .22 pistol some more.  Maybe later.

Four. Rules.

    Let's assume he is one of The Few -- the select few -- with an NYC carry permit; not because it's necessarily true (I can't find info on it) but because it's beside the point.  With or without a permit, it nevertheless appears that in the course of a night out, New York Giants player Plaxico Burress shot himself.  Non-fatally.  By "accident."

     Except there are no "accidents" with guns.  Negligence, carelessness and plain idiocy, you bet.  Poor judgement?  Not, alas, in short supply.  But "accidents" involving the discharge of a firearm can always be traced back to ignoring these:

     1. It's loaded.  Always.  If you unload it and set it down?  It's loaded.  If the nice man at the gun store checks it and hands it to you?  It's loaded.  Look, slugs of heavy stuff come out the business end moving very fast.  You can't dodge them.  You can't intimidate them.  They won't magically change course once they are on their way.  You have to be aware of them.   

     2. Do not point the muzzle at anything you're not willing to destroy.  'Cos, see, there are those fast-moving pieces of metal (etc.) that come out of that end.  They make holes in things.  You can't dodge them.  You can't intimidate them.  You have to be sure you're not going to get in their way, likewise other people, pets, and the widescreen you bought last week. 

     3. Keep your finger off the trigger.  Until you are good and ready to make holes in things  (in most cases, this includes having the target lined up in the sights, see Rule 4).  You are not a superhero (and neither am I, though it's nice to be asked); if you are not ready to press the trigger, don't put your finger on it.  People grab at things when they fall; they make fists when they are startled.  This becomes even more pronounced under stress.  You don't want to be grabbing at or making fists around the control that causes fast-moving bits of metal to make holes in things, do you?

     4. Be sure of your target and what's behind it.  Remember, the gun will make holes in things.  If those things are you, your friends, the TV set, the wall and/or your next door neighbor's new truck, it will not be a happy time.

     And here's the wonderful, happy news: the Four Rules apply no matter if you have a gun permit or not.  You can be the baddest, meanest gangsta' of them all (or, for instance, a professional athlete playing at being one)  and as long as you follow the Four Rules religiously (and avoid the popping of caps into those of your fellows wearing the wrong Colors or making improper Signs, restrictions about which I am very nearly almost sincerely sorry but that is how Civilization works), you'll be okay-fine.  As will those around you.

     If, on the other hand, you happen to be the sort of witling who does not follow and religiously apply the Four Rules, well.  Ahem.  There is indeed likely going to be, at some point, quite a loud sound followed by a trip to the Emergency Room.  Or to the Morgue.  Sadly, it is not certain it will be you making the trip, either.   If you did happen to have a firearms permit, especially if you are not well-connected, it will probably go away, too -- and that will be the very least of your worries.

     Everyone has moments of inattention, distraction, sheer idiocy.   The purpose of the Four Rules is to limit the amount of harm you will do to yourself, to others and to property when they occur.   

     Four.  Simple.  Rules.  Learn 'em.  Follow 'em.  Make them a part of your life.  You may not get a second chance.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shooty Goodness, Scooter And Xgiving

Another full day!  Met up with friends in the morning for a breakfast and a trip to Eagle Creek Range (closed, bummer) where we met up with more friends, then across town to Pop Guns to at least try out the new upper on my Ruger Mk. II .22 and let others get in some shooting.  The place was crowded but one benefit to being a member is, you get preference for the next open lane.  The Tactical Solutions barrel/receiver was a winner right out of the box: at seven yards, shots went right where the sights were lined up.  It's the first time I've shot anything with adjustable sights and found them to be right on the first try.

     After shooting (I tried a little Kahr 9mm, DAO with a long and funny trigger pull but by golly, rounds go right where they should) and shopping, the entire party adjourned for brunch at Zest!  There's not much to say except Yum!  (Creme brulee French toast?  Crab Cakes Benedict?  I swoon.  Tam talked me out of a slice of my applewood smoked bacon -- I swan, it's like dining out with a large housecat).

     Then we convoyed back to Roseholme for Tam to give our visitors (fellow bloggers) a tour of the Tamseum* while I snuck away to buy a can of petrol, add fuel stabilizer, top off my motorscooter and take it for a run up the superdupermarket on one of the last rides of the year.  Temperatures hit the high 40s today, under sunny skies -- tomorrow promises grey, rain, snow and much colder, very probably not scooter weather.

     Goodbyes said and scooter winterized, it was time to haul Tam off to Xgiving, the X family gathering, filled with good company, good food and wild tales of lucky thumbs, imaginary twins and a child named "La - a."  No, not a family member and I have been sworn not to reveal backstory or source, except to add one hint as offered indignantly by the parent who bestowed the name: "The dash ain't silent."  Ah, but will it be pronounced LaHyphena on formal occasions?  I love my family; rushed and awkward though the time we find to gather together most of the sept may be, it is as nothing to the family of my niece's husband, who long ago gave up trying the trick twice in successive months and simply celebrate "Thanksmas," turkey and tree, Pilgrim and elf, thankfulness and presents side by side.

     Tomorrow dawns another day.  The range beckons but laundry and the bills threaten; I hope to achieve a workable compromise.
* "Those historical rifles?  They're Tam's, see 'em?"  And thus, the Tamseum.  Simple, really.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thankful For Cats

     I have two cats (or perhaps they have me).

     Thomas T. Cat was born in October, 1989, along with three cat-sisters: Janie, Charlotte and Emily.  Their mother, Missy, had showed up, grown great with child, fetched me to witness their birth, raised them, weaned them and lit out for the far country as soon as she could.

     Janie stayed with me along with her brother and had a long, full life until lung disease took her in 2004.  C & E each had litters of kittens (four per) when they were almost a year old, found temporary employment as Rodent Control Technicians at Skunk Works North Campus and were eventually successfully outplaced along with all but one of their kittens.    That one, the very tiniest and wildest, a miniature ocelot all in black but for tiny spots at throat and belly, seemed like an impossible adoption.  Nearly wild, she would pitch a huge fit when caught, thrashing, howling, clawing and biting.  She ran low to the ground like a ferret and had been nicknamed The Slinker.  I left her for last, a pretty cat but who would take her?

     When the day came that Slink was the last kit left, I put on heavy gloves, caught her  (she shrieked and bit me on the thumb!) and shut her up in a storeroom for a day with food, water and a litterbox while I worked.  I don't know what mental processes went on but at the end of the day, The Slinker had decided indoors was better than outdoors, even if she did have to make up with A People.  She remained shy for many years thereafter and fought running, half-mock, half-serious battles with Janie until Janie started to slow down as her lungs failed.  As Janie became sedentary, Slinky spent more time next to her and both of them spent more and more time at my side.

     Tommy and Slinky are dozing on my desk as I type.  It's a large desk, perhaps five feet by  a little under a yard and the hutch that once accommodated an old-fashioned CRT (atop which Janie loved to sleep) now leaves plenty of room behind the flatscreen monitor sitting on the desktop for two old cats to curl up companionably -- or, as is presently the case, space for one to sprawl while the other curls up, purring, just past the edge of my mouse pad.

     These two cats have been with me through thick and thin, through times happy and lonely,  through sharing a house with Janie-the-cat and my ex's departed Neko, through setting up my library (a/k/a cat gymnasium) again after it had been boxed up for years, through my broken knee recovery, through their own illnesses, through "porch panther" summer days on the screened porch of my old house; they are like children to me, dear little furry friends and I hope they stay around just as long as they care to.  Tommy, once a burly tomcat, has gone thin with age and moves with caution -- but will still leap from the desk to the floor as lightly as hawk.  Slinky, never more than half-grown, is greying around her muzzle and has become more affectionate with every year.  She's quite a snuggler now, who purrs and relaxes when picked up, a far cry from the little hellion who once terrorized voles and suspiciously watched people from shadowed corners though a sunlit summer.

     I'm thankful to have shared so many years with them.  I hope they are as content and happy as they appear.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Make Your Own LED

--Look, if I'm gonna be some kinda Nerd Deity, I have to do this.  It's pretty much required.
     Make: a homebrewed light-emitting diode.  Just.Plain.Kewl.  


There's a new Nerd Test.  I did okay. says I'm a Cool Nerd Goddess.  What are you?  Click here!

I'm Thankful For Gravy

There are many things for which I'm thankful, when I stop to ponder.  Later, I may even have a list of sorts and a musing on the widespread custom of gathering together at Winter's threshold to share the harvest.

     Right now, I'm thankful I could never make a good roux.  I can't brown flour in butter or oil all by its lonesome; I had to figure out how to cheat.

     You cheat at roux by getting some foodstuff all floury and frying it while the flour goes along for the ride -- chunks of meat or, today, mushrooms as in Mushroom Gravy!  Just take the standard package of fresh sliced 'shrooms, toss enough* flour in a small paper bag, add a very little salt and pepper and anything else you find in the spice cabinet that looks interesting, pop the fungi in the bag, shake well, and fry up in oil.  I used olive and canola oils over middlin' heat, YMMV.

     Fry the mushrooms up 'til the floury coating gets golden-brown and there's no oil left in the pan (I prefer a wok), then add a little water and stir.  Let it come to a boil or almost, add a little more water, taste it and keep on cookin'.  If it seems too salty or spicy, add instant dry milk powder (add a little anyway, it's good  -- buy some if you don't have any, it lasts a long time and comes in handy in the kitchen all the time) or some milk.  Never add a lot of liquid at once -- I ended up with a couple of cups of gravy and never added more than a quarter-cup of water at any one time.  If it needs to taste richer, toss in a some bouillon granules or add meat broth (careful, it can be salty).  Keep the mixture going on the back of the stove, just shy of a boil or just barely boiling, while you finish everything else.  Add water as it thickens.  The browned flour comes off the mushrooms, mixes with the water (etc). and you end up with nice mushroomy gravy for the mashed potatoes.  No lumps, no fretting, no extremely time-critical gravy-making.

     ...I made skin-on Yukon Gold mashed taters, easy as store-bought pie: boil them, drain them, dry them (shake 'em in the pan over medium-high heat), chop up with a knife, add some margarine or butter and a little milk, mash with a fork or tablespoon adding milk as you go, easy as can be.  I had a little bit of sesame garlic in the water when I boiled them and a tiny hint stayed behind after draining.  The skin magically vanishes if you use the YGs and have them done enough.

     Add a nice Rosemary Chicken (from Fresh Market -- so sue me, I didn't want to spend all day fussin' over a bird too big for two), a salad heavy on tomato, carrot and yellow pepper, decent wine on the side and good coffee with the pumpkin pie after and you've got a fair Thanksgiving dinner -- for Tam and me, the first of at least two, since she was invited to the X family gathering upcoming.  More help for the dishwashing!
* Sometimes I'll list measurements but outside of baking, where the magic takes proper proportions, I don't actually measure things when cooking.  If you use up all the flour in the bag, add more.  If there's flour left, pitch it out and oh well: you're not gonna use up more than like 35 cents worth -- okay, maybe 70 if you're a bad guesser).

Alienating Gunnies

H-S Precision's recent faux pas has been covered throughout the gun-blogosphere. I held off, not having time to call them up, but it's been confirmed: they really did publish an endorsement letter from Lon Horiuchi on the back cover of their latest catalog. 'Cos, you know, long-distance shooting at civilian mothers and children is, like, admirable. Especially when you have them surrounded and outnumbered a bajillion to one and all you really have to do is wait for the food to run out.

     The MOVE firebombing is not as well-known but similar to Ruby Ridge in many ways: disliked oddballs (much odder and less-liked, IMO, and way worse neighbors) run afoul of the law, massive overreaction by LEO, a great deal of denial, hindsight-driven justification and retconning afterwards. Pretty much S.O.P.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Exactly Not Like Jerry Lewis In France

...That'd be me in Germany, 'cos I'd be a sister to: Man Loses Gun License For Sleeping With One Under The Pillow.  Which the Po-lice noticed during a -- get this!  --"routine inspection."

     A) Gee, I love living in the U.S.A.

     B) I slept with a (double-action-only) pistol under my pillow for many years.  It's not the cleverest of ideas but it's a handy location if you're not grabby in your sleep.  I worked out a better location -- but since effin' when is it anyone's business but the folks you interact with in and from your bed?

     It's got everything: The Gummint, in your bedroom, takin' your guns.  Oh, please tell me they wore nice shiny jackboots!

     Let us not overlook C) The genius who chose to add a generic, file photo of a bed to "illustrate" this article, d'ye think he believes most readers have not seen a bed before?  D00d, most of us don't sleep on a couch at Mom & Dad's.

Hotels For Hobos

A clever idea?  A local television station is providing -- free for nothing! -- an interactive map to foreclosed homes in your neighborhood.  So you can find out, see, if there are any, 'cos you'd never have noticed the emptiness and abandonment. 

     Just in time for cold weather!  Now the homeless can find places to break into online at the public library.  Sleep warm -- be sure to check for fireplaces and lots of wood furniture to burn.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Starship Maintenance

"Co-workers are people who know all your faults -- and would dislike you even more if you didn't have them."

Spent the better part of the day removing wires that went from Ending Unconnected to Noplace Useful and/or vice versa, and when I say "wires" I mean "instrumentation and signal cable" -- UTP, STP, coaxial cable, multiconductor cables and so on. To the tune of about three 55-gallon drums full.

It didn't start out that way. We're relocating a slew[1] of servo and instrumentation amplifiers to improve performance and maintenance access and in the course of this, discovered some of our peers had decided the best way to "remove" unneeded cabling was to clip the ends and tuck it under the computer-type flooring. (Removable 2' x 2' deck plates with about 18" of wiring depth under 'em). This is not actually such a great idea for two reasons: A) There is only that foot-and-a-half of room and B) Service Life Weight Gain, which is not your Uncle Ted retiring from the Navy two hundred pounds heavier then when he enlisted but what happens to ships, airplanes and starships when some people leave the nonfunctional bits in place. We got two amplifiers moved and found ourselves out of room, snared like hapless insects in a spider's web.

Rather than kvetch or give up, it occurred to C. Jay and myself that this was A Wonderful Opportunity! We lifted up and stacked the deckplates with joyous abandon and told Navs we'd have some mass overboard by the end of the first watch, numbers to follow and did they have a preferred vector to guide our selection of hatches to haul it to for disposal? (Drive Control is right around the corner and told us it wasn't going to make any difference but The Forms Must Be Observed -- and filled out, or it's a bad time when the Chief finds out).

Navigation didn't care, just wanted to know the mass of the mess. We wanted to know it too: wanted to know it was gone! With a bitta red tape to make the dead 'uns and a very own personal diagonal cutters, we set to with a will; my peer broke for lunch and I filled about half a barrel while he ate, then went off to the little automated "breakroom" mess near Engineering myself, where a committee of upper-decks types were in the process of getting a head start on the holidays by setting up a small Christmas tree. I am what I am: took a couple'a minutes to check that all the pretty bits were properly secured, then asked where they proposed to mount it: "If you leave it on that table, the Second Watch gang will have eaten most of it by dinnertime."[2]
"Oh, we'll put it here by the door -- just have to move that waste can... Ummm."
"It's a hatch, not a door.[3] Can's bolted down, see the flanges? It'll move, there's inserts all over the deck, just get it fastened back down[4] and don't block any accesses or the vending machines." (Yeah, vending machines: the Starship Company is only too happy to provide candy and twice the dirtside price: they didn't just float here by magic!)

Lunch over (pastrami and Swiss cheese on whole wheat, it is so worth fixin' personal electronics for the cooks), I went back to discover even more floor opened up and one drum filled and closed with nothing but dead wires -- and even more on the floor. C. Jay was laughing:
"Half of these are for the Pine Hills Three Thousand drive controller -- we took that thing out out in 1995!"
"Nothing else aboard uses these connectors!" (Holding up a mutant D-series plug).
"Geesh," digging into the tangle and yanking on a likely wire, "Is this that same cable?"
"Yeah, just a sec...." snip "Connector's off now, haul away!"

...And so passed the rest of the afternoon (with a short break to fire up a new comms circuit back to the home port, yet another "improvement" in ansible design, one that cuts the round-trip time for the signals down to mere 15 minutes and hardly ever breaks up, yeah sure), until the Second Watch early birds showed up, made a try at gawking and found themselves put to work on the project, too. Eventually, we worked the cables that were still connected at one end back to either the high-precision reference distribution -- 'cos, you know, it's fine if the primary frequency standard for the stardrive crashes because some tekkie was too lazy to remove a dead wire and it got shorted and we have to get out and push -- or the external imaging -- like we care to see where we're going? We left the next watch to get the rest of the deck plates back down, loaded our drums onto powered two-wheelers, and sent the drums and the miles of wire in 'em off on the first steps of their trip overboard, to vaporization at the drive field interface. Good riddance!

...In hindsight, we could have just left 'em in the breakroom with a sign warning not to eat the wires; they'd've been gone by our next watch. I'm just about certain of it.

Naturally, the Chief cast a fishy eye at the proceedings.
"You didn't get the amplifiers moved?"
"Boss? Have a look in here..." (Leading him to the area where we'd been working and a third of the deck was still opened up)
"Whoa. Isn't that where we had to use long bolts to pull the plates down on the cabling?"
"It used to be..."
"All right then. Continue. And get those amplifiers relocated!"

All in a day's work.
1. This is a weak electronics in-joke. Measured in Volts per microSecond.
2. Utterly true. There is nothing the Second Watch won't eat if they find it on a table in the break room. No matter how long it has sat out or what biohazard signage is on it.
3. Hatch, deck, bulkhead, overhead, ladderway -- I know what you called similar things back in Duluth but Duluth isn't moving at transluminal speeds, okay? The first starships past the R & D stage were built from salvaged WW II Navy vessels and it's become tradition. Also? Were the doors back in Duluth airtight?
4. Sad but true: we spend considerable time in zero-G every trip -- and some crew members still can't wrap their heads around the idea that Lunch, for instance; but that's another peeve.

Casey At The...Desk?

"For how better dies someone
Than in making usermods
To improve functionality
And to dismay the clods."

     Remember: remove power before servicing!

     (I blame Dr. Pournelle for this.  Him and that Thomas Babington Macaulay guy.  Left to my own devices, I'm unlikely to read poetry).

Monday, November 24, 2008


You wanna live forever?  Some researchers seem confident three-score and ten will be the new 20!

     Bonus phrase: Mice are not "...small little furry humans with long tails." (It's all the fault of the traditional Hollywood animation industry.  Oh, how I miss them).

He Thinks "Adam Smith" Is A Local Beer, Too

"Expert" says capitalism must be saved from itself by Dear Leader, just like FDR did.

     G-d help us.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Conversation Is Had

(One speaker is me, the other is Tam.  We agreed to not tell who is who).

"Damn this coat!  The zipper's no good!" (fumble, fumble)  "It won't fasten!"

"Here, let me see..." (fumble, fumble, think)  "Do you still have that multitool?"  (fumble, plying of pliers, fumble)

"No, let me...  Oh, it just won't.  It's been a problem all day.  Forget it it."

"You could snap up the storm flap snaps..."

"Hey, what?  It does have snaps, and I've been cold all day?" (blush, blush)

"Oh, gee, I thought you knew that...."

(Third speaker) "I thought you were just hot from the exertion.  No?"

"No, I was freezing!  It's got snaps!  I've only had the coat...five or six years and I didn't notice?"

     Sometimes things are too obvious.

November Blogmeet

'Twas a stirring success!  We gathered at Fionn MacCool's, met friends old and new, drank fine tipples, ate like royalty (Irish royalty, except for the dee-lish sweet potato French fries which not even they could get) and spoke of books, films, politics and witlings.  ...Kind of just a wee skosh of overlap there, wouldn't you just know.

     I'm awaiting photos from Tam's pal.  Shermlock Shomes got his back already -- go see!  Bonus: you not only get to see all the kewl kids, you'll see my famous "I, too will stand against Tarquin!" gesture.  (Holy howlin' cow, the Tiber is way colder than you'd'a thunk!  And that Horatius?  Total hunk).

     December with her various and sundry assorted holidays* is bearin' down fast and busy, so speak up now: what weekend would work for you for the December Indy Blogmeet?
* You know what?  I'm a-gonna say "Happy Holidays," and here's why: pretty much everyone from everyplace has got some darned kind of Winter solstice holiday, plus there are at least two religious holidays that by Divine plan or pure chance (take your own pick), fall on or near the same date and the civil calender clicks over about the same time.  I don't know how many of 'em you celebrate or in what fashion and rather than leave yours out or insult the tradition and significance of it with my heathen mispronunciation and misapprehension, I'm just gonna use the generic term.  I'm not multicultural, I'm too lazy to look up all about your particular December day or days but nowhere near mean enough to just ignore it.  If you have a problem with that, go find somebody else to wish you a happy Woodchuck-Hampering Day or whatever blame thing it is you do, okay?  'Cos I tried but I've kinda got my own strange alien festivities to do: we get to torture a tree!  Heheheheh.  Also, there will be gifts. 

Linguistic Patrol Once Again

[Cue cheap ripoff of "Rat Patrol" theme music] Roaring over the hills of misapplied words, thundering through the vales of slaphappy phrasing, Ma Deuce blazing, the Linguistic Patrol is back in action....

     ...You just about have to be wearing the Patrol's newsprint off-white, pulp-paperback pale yellow and printer's-ink black camo to read a chilling report of one news photographer's treatment in Chicago and find yourself distracted by a comment suggesting the highly-trained  men, women and please-don't-tell-me of that teeming, highly advanced metropolis ought to "tow the line."
     Umm, no.  Tempting though it might be to set the most egregious offenders to hauling in the hawsers and anchor chains that keep the Windy City moored along the lake, a chancre fouling all Illinois,  if we'd like them to play by the rules we'd be better off getting them to "toe the line."  While I -- in my appalling ignorance -- had long had a mental image of military recruits lining up in rows, toes to the line (or the mark), the Wikipedia article shares an even more apt origin for the phrase.

     Another chilling wordwarp that has many of the Patrol reaching for their Sykes-Fairbairn and Ka-Bar knives is "hone in."  You could hone right in on that?
     No.  No you can't and no you don't.  You might hone your skills -- or your knife.  Or your gardening shears.  You home in on some selected goal, literally or figuratively.  Yes, you hear "hone in" often.  Tough.  It is still wrong.

     One last reminder: it's still "ask."  One might "axe" firewood, or, if Elizabeth Borden, possibly parents.  One asks questions.  Really.  Take it from a career mumbler.

     English is a moving target but there's no need to try attaching JATO units.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Me, me, ME!

Caleb's a wimp, I totallly pwned Tam -- and Turk's here!

     Went to the bowling pin shoot this morning and just about froze to death.  But Turk (mah hero!) had brought a huuuge bag of chemical handwarmers, and saved the the day.  (Update: I was shooting my 9mm Star BM: it has fair sights and I have plenty of mags for it.  I removed the magazine safety in the car on the way to the match, so the mags will now drop free  [No, Mom, I wasn't driving, I was a passenger]).

     Caleb didn't even try.  He used some little cow-college sporting event as an excuse but you know it was the cold.

     In one round, fought right down to the wire (i.e., we both ran out of ammo with a couple of pins hanging, twice, and had to run back to the ready table for more.  By the second trip, we were both laughing almost too hard to shoot.  I totally rock!
     "One out of two isn't bad," Tam reminds: the first time we were head to head today, I fell to ignominious defeat, knocking two pins down (but not off the table) in 28-some shots while she swept her table with eight shots.  Pure luck, says I.  Or maybe superior skill.  Umm, yeah, that second thing.  But I try hard.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Okay, Fine

There have been some dust-ups in the gun-blogosphere about perennial hot topics like how cozy State and Church otta git, gun-show bans, gay marriage, abortion and other how-to-lose-friends-and-annoy people topics.  A lot of finger-pointing and claims of who's a bigger friend or foe of freedom than who.

     Y'know what?  You all are!  I'm tired of it.  I have a plan to end debate on things that don't have answers everyone can live with by giving every man jack of you your dreamworld:

     Make it ALL illegal or compulsory.  Yeah, that's right.  No middle ground.  No more gun shows.  No more private sales.  No same-sex marriages and the traditional sort of wedlockery will be universally required by age 24 but only after careful study of the parties of involved and by gum, if you are not poppin' out babies soon after (but no more than nine months after!), you better have an excuse backed up by doctors.  --And doctoring will be completely free but strictly rationed; you get five visits a year, including eye exams and dentistry and if you need more, tough.  Also: no divorce.  Cowboy up or stifle yourself.  

     No cover illustrations on magazines and they will all be the same size and use the same three fonts, period.  No sweets.  No salty stuff.  No alcohol.  No caffeine.  No tofu or red meat. No pork.  No hats.  Everyone gets a buzzcut haircut every other month, without exception.  Voting will be compulsory but there won't be any choices on the ballot.  TV and radio will air  nothing but weather reports, traffic reports and black and white still shots of bland, inoffensive subjects.  The Internet will be strictly censored, text-only, 2400 Baud connections and the computers will be free, plain, and have no mass storage capability.

     Everything will be painted with high-quality grey paint.  You'll get three outfits a year, all grey, all plain.  One pair of canvas shoes, one pair of galoshes and if required for your job, you will be issued work boots.  No singing.  No whistling.  No motorcycles, bicycles or stinky buses. The national speed limit will be 40 miles an hour and all the cars will be horsepower limited -- and painted, yes, grey.  If you go over the speed limit or don't wear your seat belt, you get run off the road and summarily executed by the police, who will be required to wear nice blue uniforms, smile and call you "Sir" or "Ma'am."  Gum-chewing, gayness, open atheism and/or praying in public?  Same penalty.  In fact, the same penalty for any offense against the peace: quick, simple and without all that faffing around with courts and attornies.  Everything that ever bothered your buddies, neighbors, best enemy and you will be illegal, by gosh, and you can darned well put up with it 'cos it is the very best you're a-gonna get, ever.

     Okay?  That's the world you're building, one damn brick of "Daddy, make those bad people stop!" at a time.  You can either unclench and let all the idiots, heathens, gunnies, preverts and people just like you alone as long as they stay off your lawn and leave you alone, or you can try to police them -- and in the process, build a police state for everyone.  You decide; I'm sick and tired of the noise and I've got plenty of books and a place to hide them. I can cope with the rest of it as long as I can read.

Whisky Tango Dogtrot

What dog breed are you? I'm a German Shepherd! Find out at
     I am?

     (via John Shirley)

Did I Mention?

I now have an electric blanket.  I never had one before.  I slept with it last night.  I'm seriously considering marrying it.

Is It Just Me, Or...?

Does everyone else find chafing dishes kind of irritating, too?  (Maybe talcum powder would help?)

     Are we all "moron magnets" when driving?  

    Is the temptation ever almost too overwhelming to walk towards the perfume-sprayers at Biggo Department Store with a powerful butane lighter set to max at concealed ready, sidestep as they spray and ignite the plume?

     Do you, too, watch C-SPAN and want to send every Congresscritter and most of the people in their immediate vicinity postcards with only one question: "Are you out of your tiny mind?"

     This is a lovely planet but at times I wonder if I'm really from here.

Friday Morning Round-Up

Now Updated!  (see below)

Yee.  Haw.

     Not much posting yesterday: I'm still up to my neck (gills?) in Starship Modification And Repair, running short on time and sleep and coping -- badly -- with a sore back.  (You wouldn't happen to know the name and number of a good, cheap leaf-removal company, would you?)

     Coming up this weekend: Bowling Pin Shoot at Marion County Fish & Game!  Saturday, 0800 (or "half-past oh-dark-thirty," IMO.  Gads, I am a lazy creature).

     Sunday afternoon at 1500, it's the Special November Indy Blogmeet, at Fionn MacCool's in Fishers!  (Yes, yes yes, you in the back, that's three p. m.).  Fine food and friends old and new -- hoping to see you there.  Planning on meeting my old friend, corned beef and cabbage.  --Srsly, I'd pass up bacon for good corned beef  and not even have to think twice.

     Saturday night, my family Thanksgiving! Wrong! Mom tells me that would be next Saturday, a week from tomorrow. Whew! --Umm, sorry, close friends and family only.  You'll be missin' some first-rate cookery! (A near-miss on the Blogmeet date; even when I set it, I was thinking my innate sense of timing was prolly gonna trip me up once more.  Holidays are tricky for the Xs: I'm on-call and get bare-minimum holidays off, my brother's an Army Reserve officer and pretty much everybody's got another family (or more!) to do the holidays with, too.  So it's rarely if ever on the day of and sometimes it's a struggle to get a quorum together).   

     Quite the social whirl.  At this rate, I'll buy a couple o'hot-deli Cornish game hens or a turkey roll for Thursday's dinner,* mash up some good taters (skin-on, with whole milk, it's the only way), add a little of this and a bitta that on the side -- flageolets verts with a touch of diced ham, maybe, or real succotash, a wildly-assorted salad, something cranberry-based, that sort of thing -- and otherwise sleep the day away just to catch up.
* "Dinner:" big meal in the middle of the day, usually on a Sunday or holiday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did You Secure It? Are You Sure?

On the starship, our biggest worry is riggers on one of the smaller masts dropping something when we're underweigh. Pick the right vector, and hey-presto, it hits the field interface and it's gone, bit of sparkle and if it's big enough, an awkward half-hour with the Old Man and the Drive/Navs boffins: lost mass and a random vector can play hob with our course -- but you'd have to drop a darned big something for it to be more than annoying. Pick a worse vector and maybe someone gets started by a thud or tolling of the hull. Pick the wrong one and.... Well, they say rapid decompression's a quick death, but not quick enough. This is why the riggers generally keep their tools and otherwise-unattached materials on lines clipped to the booms or to themselves.*

Back in the headlines, in the official, public space program, it's a simpler world but even less forgiving. As a NASA astronaut found out when a tool bag -- a more or less full tool bag -- got shoved and drifted away in zero-G. And it didn't have a line on it. And she didn't see it until it was out of reach. Wave bye-bye! And now it's one more thing to look out for around ISS. Per the report, it was a SNAFU from the git-go: a container of grease had given way and those lovely white-and-stainless NASA tools were greasy and gloppy, bad enough under pressure and barehanded and a nightmare working with the gloves on the kinds of spacesuits NASA and the Russians are issuing.

If there's are lessons here, one is, "You can't train for everything;" this was yet another of the NASA jobs that the team had done and done and done on Earth, some of it in the big water tank, every step worked out, every problem anyone thought of addressed. And the other lesson is that being highly skilled and highly trained doesn't mean you won't get distracted and make mistakes. It's what you do next that counts -- in this case, not going haring off after the greasy bag as it drifted out of reach was the right decision. It's a long walk home and they had duplicates of all the critical items.
* Some fine day I'll explain the complex arrangement of these vast starships, rough teardrop shapes about ten miles by five, just within the maximum scope and shape of a Level Two spacewarp. Standard thrust is applied at 90 degrees to the warp field, so the ship has a conventional and definite "up" and "down" and thanks to the elegant trickery of Feynman/Hawking "wormhole tunneling" (which actually isn't -- but don't ask me, I just change fuses and hit it with a hammer when it goes wonky), we get to add that vector to the warp on any angle we choose. It's a two-fer, gravity and fine maneuvering control: made of win! Or it could all be an elaborate joke.

The Librarian

"The Librarian: Curse Of The Judas Chalice"  This is either gonna be good, or it will melt on re-entry.  I wanna see it!

     What do you think?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So You'd Like To Be A Starship Tekkie?

We have Starship Troopers a-plenty, good ones in print, doofy ones on film, their flip side warring stars; there is no dearth of Starship Troupers, either, playin' at bein' Browncoats, Purplebellies, Imperial Storm Troopers, Space Marines or whatever at sci-fi and gaming 'cons and -- oh, dear! -- sometimes in RL, too.

That's fine. But to get 'em wherever they are going to meet new friends and blow them up takes tech. And to keep the tech tickin', you gotta have Tekkies.

That's me. Broken fingernails, solder-singed, pocket full of tiny screwdrivers and the most specialized multitools, hair never quite right and always short of time.

Today was pretty typical -- had to shuttle over to the main hull early to meet up with the factory rep from Tweed who was gonna check out our new stardrive spacewarp controller, way newer design than the old one, better hardware and a whole different software engine. I had hand-ported the settings over from the old one two months ago (!!!), a high-tech process involving a legal pad, a fresh #2 pencil and a whole lotta time -- also considerable head-scratching, since the new gear does not use quite the same terminology. As in, "wholly different words for the same thing." So, the man from Tweed was there in the main airlock, waitin'; signed him in with Security, got him issued a cardkey (opens doors, keeps the drones from stickywebbing him in the corridors) and an air tag, also good for free coffee in the lounge. Introduced him around, showed him the hardware, chatted about what I'd got done and sat him down at an unused terminal to start doping it out.

I couldn't hang around long, the sensor techs had a rigger up the mast installing a new and better camera (1080i: full HDTV, low-light to full solar, full remote control, everything you might want in a visible-light imager -- which died hard in the last two installation attempts) and were wondering about some odds and ends I had done; halfway through that, a minor alert sent me scurrying to the Drive Control Room: ten miles away at the far end of the main boom where the warp generators live, compartment temperature was over 80 and climbing!

That called for a quick and nasty intercom chat with Environment/Physical Plant, who have full telemetry and control...along with a highly territorial attitude. "You'll 'look at it when you have time?' Fine, whenever, if the stardrive goes offline, you can explain it to the Old Man!" 'Scroom. I'll walk home.

...And back to the Tweed guy, who -- yayy! -- is pretty pleased with the hand-carried settings but A) needs to fine tune 'em and B) wants a port to look at the bitstream this gadget hands off to the 'drive. Get that set up, cable strung across the Equipment Room, when the brass to whom I answer come by to meet our visitor and ask after an invoice from the riggers and another one from a fiber-optic supplier that appear to have my initials on them. Unh, oopsie? Then there's a different monitor port needed to look at another aspect of the stardrive control (crammin' a huge starship into tiny wormholes across vast distances is not even a little easy), and for that one, I take a minor bit of on-line monitoring off line, warn the op in Drive Control what we're about, and hook to that.

So it goes until about lunchtime, when the Special Projects Chief comes by to point out I have a mandatory "Zero-G/High Voltage/The Same Mass" 3-hour training refresher starting in under an hour, no, 45 minutes, no skipping it like I did the last one, and by the time I get the Tweed tech squared away foodwise, I'm at table in the main hull mess hall (hahaha), a tuna salad sammich and a cuppa' hot tea before me and fifteen minutes to make it go away. No sooner have I taken the last bite than there's a Thump! and I get summoned to the cargo hatch (I leave our factory tech at the table with directions back and a reminder to hang onto that cardkey!), where a crew has just arrived with a steerable 5-meter comms dish, salvage from a decommissioned vessel and scheduled (by what lunatic? --Their employer's whim, it turns out) to be bolted in place right-the-devil-now today, aligned and tuned at some unknown future date

By the time that's accomplished I'm not exactly late to the refresher; I sign in and slip into a seat at the back of the compartment as a Security guy in a spiffy uniform up front is pointing out the (very real) Dangers Of Alcohol and How Long It Lingers.

--At which point my beeper buzzes. Message from the Drive Control Op (new shift -- it's four hours max time on duty when we're under warp) wantin' to know why Minor Bit Of On-Line Monitoring is reporting Major troubles; I skedaddle out to the equipment room, check with the Tweed rep ("Done with that part?" "Yep!"), set it back to normal and hightail back to the mandatory refresher in time to learn that Fatigue is one of the prime causes of what we are not calling "accidents." Along with Haste and Distraction (though the latter two may in fact be tiny imps that ride on my shoulders all day). This continues, with graphic -- and genuinely instructional -- videos of not-accidents ("wrecks" "failures" "explosive decompression due to extreme stupidity") for the next three hours with one five minute break, which I get to occupy by finding misfiled schematics of another part of sensor array for the techs working on the new camera.

Once that's over (and I didn't win a door prize: either a key fob with the ship's crest, or a fanny pack "guaranteed to hold under up 4Gs." Maybe), I've got about an hour left on my shift to gather what info I can from the factory tech, do my paperwork and set things up for the next day. With a little luck, tomorrow I'll be able to learn something of what he knows.

What minty-fresh hell is this? It's just a typical day keepin' the starship runnin'. Some people herd sheep; some people balance books. Me, I balance eggs on plates spinning atop poles -- and sometimes drop a few.

It's not heroic but somebody's got to do it.

Meet Your New Attorney General?

Eric Holder is President-elect Obama's pick for AG.  Gee, I wonder how he is about guns?

     The Short Answer: More of the same.  This administration is going to be very unfriendly to gun owners, no matter how law-abiding you are.

     Time for me to re-up with NRA.  Time for you to do so, too.  Time to write your Congressthings and City Councilbeings -- and The Editor, too. 

     Oh, remember: Tomorrow is National Ammo Day!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spam Or TMI?

One of the better guys in my department at the Skunk Works gets all the spam.  Last week it was "Improve Your Sex Life" from "Online Legal Advice."  I think they're gonna sue him if he doesn't start dating more!  Either that or he's decided to sue himself.  In part.

     He was Engineering's earliest and most whole-hearted adopter of business e-mail.  You can tell the pioneers -- they're the ones with all the arrow wounds.

Popular Lady

Short on time this ayem, so I'll just point out that even El Neil likes Sarah Palin! Well worth reading; whatever you think of his politics, L. Neil Smith is a talented essayist.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

That's What Friends Are For

Tamara's tryin' to save me from zombiefoot.  Like they don't make a powder for that? 

Why Is It

Why is it that "logistics" and "logjam" are so much closer in practice than in the dictionary?

Why is it that Alice Roosevelt's line, "If you haven't anything good to say about anyone, sit right next to me," is not better-known?

Why the hell isn't there a Hilton on the Moon already?

Why haven't I got my flying car yet?

Or the tiny power plant that sits in the back yard and runs the whole house for pennies a year?

But digital TV, that I'm stuck with getting no matter what.  Oh, joy.  Alice?  Let's turn the miserable thing off and talk about people we don't like.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Surplus Of Homonyms

[And synonyms.] English has too many. No, really -- when you can paraphrase The Princess and the Pea as The Marquesa and the Micturition, things have gone entirely too far. Even though that would be way more detectable in a pile of mattresses.

"Ew," she asked, "Did the cat get locked in here today?"

(Me, I have spent most of the day not on a pea but a heating pad. I think my back is getting better...much too slowly).


I'm sorry to say that Desmond Dekker is two years gone -- but his music remains.
Heard it for years before I had a clue to the lyrics. Cheerful, uptempo -- and desperate. Write your own current-events reference!

(Me, I am just out of a hot bath with muscle-relaxing bath salts, headed for the futon and a heating pad. Ahhhhh).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Civics: FAIL

The scene: room with vending machines, tables, chairs and a  TV set tuned to Network News.

The cast: Your Correspondent and A Semi-Random Stranger.

On the TV: a news story about The Post-Election Rush To Buy Guns.

Stranger: "I don't see why they are in such  hurry -- even if the President makes a law against guns, Congress still has to approve it!  It'll take months."

Me: (boggling, wondering where do I begin?) "Er, unh, I guess they don't want to miss out...?"

D00d, here:
Please to note at which point in the process the Prez gets involved. Thang Kew.

Bad Morning

It first hit yesterday as I was scrambling to get out the door: a couple of big muscles in my mid-lower back knotted up.  By the time I got to work, it was bad enough I thought I was going to lose my breakfast.  I maxxed out on ibuprofen and gritted my teeth; by lunchtime, it was down to a manageable level and at day's end, I hardly noticed it.

     This morning my alarm went off and I discovered I could not sit up.  What?  Rolled on my side-- or tried to, anyway: my back lit up like an old-fashioned jukebox.  BingbingbingBING! Rolled onto my back and attempted to just sit right up: waves of pain and little mental fireworks.  Now there's no comfortable position and I am thoroughly annoyed.  I reached back, grabbed the headboard, dug in my heels and levered myself up by main force, groaning, and was able to turn, drop feet over the edge and stand up.  Hurts less standing.  From the hallway I hear:
     "Are you all right in there?"
     "[incoherent mutterings] --freakin' back.  Ow."
     "Do you need the ibuprofen?"
     My tummy voted no thanks and I admitted as much.
     "Well, I'm making coffee!"

     After some minor chores (T: "Hey, don't do that." R: "[mulish mumblings]"), half a cup, three OC pain pills and a bowl of oatmeal later, the back pain's down to a dull roar.  I don't know what brought it on, possibly 40 crunches of a new and trying type two mornings ago, but I'm not enjoyin' it.  Tonight: heat pad.  Liniment.  Grrrr.  This is not how it's supposed to be.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good Morning!

Okay, okay, the economy is tanking and Winter's almost here.  It's been cold and grey and rainy in Indy, and even colder and rainier at GM and on Wall Street.  The .gov has $700 billion about half-spent and they're not sure they've actually bought anything but a handful of magic beans; me, I doubt they even got plain beans, let alone magic ones.  (Washington is a reverse Philosopher's Stone, turning gold into dross with speed and verve -- and style, oh!  What style!  Idiots).

     But today -- only today -- the meat-eating urologists are talking about sunshine and a high approaching 60.  It might not be much but it's something and I intend to enjoy it.  Sunshine doesn't cost a dime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two Notions

     It's always something -- thank goodness!


     They call it "the present," 'cos if we had to pay for it ourselves, we'd send it back.

Why Does It Look So Familiar?

The photo popped up and I thought, "Gosh, didn't I see a guy in that pose, with that expression, in a suit like that somewhere long ago?  Maybe in a history book?"
     Oh, yeah -- that guy!  Party affiliations and political philosophies differ but the more I see the new guy's body language and expressions the more I wonder if there's not a genetic component to wantin' to run for President.    Will he name the puppy "Checkers?"  Will Michelle Obama wear a plain, Democratic cloth coat at the inauguration?

  Certainly Joseph Biden is an adequate stand-in for Spiro Agnew in the tone, style and tact of his public pronouncements, though he lacks Agnew's gift for memorable snark.  He could maybe take lessons?

     The more things change, the more they come 'round again with slightly different trim and paint.  We might not have Dick Nixon to kick around any more but no worry -- we'll always have politicians.  And the common cold.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

She Said What?

This is petty of me, but still--

     It appears that some customers are having allergic-like reaction to some models of Victoria's Secret bras; that's in the news and headed, perhaps, for the courts.  The company has put out some press releases and pledged to get to the bottom of it.  Fine, that's how it works.

     However, if you have had such a reaction and happen to speak with one of the flatter sorts of American accents, there are some phrases you might want to avoid when being interviewed.  "Utterly sick," for instance.

    It made for a real "said what?" moment for me.  Honest, sister, take it from a career mumbler: sometimes, y'just gotta enunciate.

Just Take A Single Minute

...Stop, if you can, at the eleventh hour of this eleventh day of the eleventh month to remember the great effort and terrible sacrifice made by our veterans to ensure a future for the likes of you and me.  Without these brave men and women -- not just the ones who made headlines but every one of them who did their duty, unremarked, often in harsh conditions, for low pay and less glory -- we would not be where we find ourselves today.

     Armistice Day -- Veteran's Day, it is called now, the better to remember them all -- is a working holiday for many of us.  But take that minute, spare a glance as the parade goes by and think of the people who aren't there; remember the spirit of the day and the efforts of all who serve.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November Indy BlogMeet

Update: I would not be at all averse to setting some sort of "rain date" at the brewpub in November for those who can't make it on the 23rd.   Holidays make for difficult scheduling.
The next Indy Blogmeet: Sunday, 23 November 2008, 3:00 pm at Fionn MacCool's, 8211 E. 116th St., Fishers, IN.  Have a look at the menu.*  Yum!
Old Grouch has detail here, including a map and helpful travel advice.  Read it, take it to heart.  he knows whereof he speaks: Castleton is Hell.
This is combined with the Ace of Spades HQ "Moronapalooza/Happy Hour Meet-Up" post-election gathering, so hey -- new friends.   Be nice, now and remember -- no biting!  Mostly.
     Okay, that's November.  We need to start talkin' about December's BlogMeet now, I think, so we can dodge the various and sundry holidays. 
*OMG, corned beef and cabbage!  I am so very there.  I like all manner of food but if I had to pick just one fave?  That'd be it. Yeah, yeah, unsubtle.  Common, even.  But oh-so-good.

Gimme 'At Ol-Time Religion...

Next verse!

"Seen Cthulhu in his carapace,
He looked shy an' kinda out'a place
Then he ate somebody's face,
It's good enough for me...."

     I have got to stop singin' in the shower.

HuffPo: "Invent," "Distort," "Report," Whatever

It's all the same to them.  While not-so-tacitly accusing Sarah Palin of being D. C. Stephenson in cuter outfits and the Republican Party of becoming "hard-Right Nationalists" (of which the opposite is, what, internationists?), they have lost sight of their side's current policies.
     Okay, pop quiz: of the two big parties, which one favors international trade agreements like NAFTA and which one has been espousing a naive protectionism?  Umm-hmm. 

     Take your grotesque, Godwinesque brush, Huffies, and apply it to yourselves.  And try to remember that national political parties are inherently nationalist -- or did you not notice the red, white and blue bunting -- with white stars, OMG! -- your side uses, too?

     It's almost reassuring to see America's Left has not lost their cute trait of kicking folks when they're down.  

     Update:  Feeling so fine a pair of 'noids should not go unacknowledged, I left a comment on the originating blog, pointing out his side had, after all, won; that "nationalism" is what most national political parties are about; and that the system had, in fact, worked.  It was deleted in short order.

     Y'know what worries me?  Aside from the usual nut-jobs, the only group talking about death threats to the incoming President are a subset of the farthest-left among the Democrats.  Between that and the labored comparisons to John F. Kennedy, it almost seems that some of them want a martyrdom to rally around.   Tough luck, ijits, your candidate won the election, he's got his four years and a very effective Secret Service (plus all the rest of the law enforcement agencies) to keep him safe doing it.  Presidents of the United States have always, sadly, been the focus of inept lunatics -- but while the loonies have, if anything, become more inept, the agencies protecting the President are vastly more competent than ever before, grim and professional men and women with a single focus.

       The days of drama are over, whiners; welcome to the era of having to dig in and do the job.  This is not the movies.   Democrat or Republican, "witling" or "genius" to the popular press, family man or philanderer, politicians in our times assume the office of President hale and hearty and leave, four or eight years later, grey, wrinkled and a bit stooped.   The main threat to a president's life nowadays is the terrible weight of the job itself.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A "Rebuilding" Day

....Or, honestly put, I slept in, made a deelightful corned beef hash & eggs brekky, cleaned guns with Tam an' her boytoy (oh geez am I gonna hear it over that) and put the nifty lightweight receiver/barrel on my Ruger .22 pistol, made a run up to Skunk Works North Campus where one-half of the insystem drive had blown a rastafradibbulator* tetrode (spares not kept in stock), enjoyed Boogie Burgers with Tam & her etc., came home and have been idly cruisin' the 'net, dabbling at laundry and noddin' off for the last several hours.

     I was gonna blog this tale of change and hope, but D. W. Drang beat me to it.  Inconstancy?  Move to the center?  Finally found a copy of that pesky 14th Amendment?  Whatever.

     Oh an' Tam's fren'?  Major thanks for helpin' me with Dad's 870 shotgun.  Best of all was lookin' down the bore and seein' he had put it away as clean as could be!
* Spellcheck claims there is No Such Animal.  How could I have made it up just now, then?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Linguistic Patrol: Pre-Inauguration Special

"Let me close by saying I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead.  We've taken some major actions to date, and we will need further actions during this transition and subsequent months."

     "Enormity?"  You said a mouthful, Mr. President-Elect.  But probably not like you thought.  (Or -- dahdaddahDAHN -- did he?  ...Checking edge of reality for sprocket holes...  Nope).

     Perhaps I should send a copy of Strunk and White's The Elements of Style to 1600 Pennsylvania with a note asking "Please leave for next tenant."  On the other hand, most of us still have a copy from 8th or 9th-grade English.

     Guess his didn't take.  Ate the covers, maybe?

Setting The Table To Music

.....The Periodic Table, that is, to a "suspiciously familiar tune."  Say what you will, snarking the elements is a heckuva trick.

What, No Wheelbarrow?

Ended up over at SurvivalBlog by a very odd route and found a letter about inflation, deflation and financial hard times.

     What I fail to understand about money, banking and monetary theory starts somewhere in the middle of buying things on credit (which may explain my extreme conservatism about large purchases) and goes on to fill libraries, not to mention other people's bank accounts.  But this note makes sense and suggests that for any "adjustment" short of the Fed augering in and tryin' to print their way out of it, FRNs are still good and gettin' better.  At least right up until they're only good for insulation and wallpaper and when that happens, there's damn-all else that'll stand in for money, either

     (Next: ".22lr, the new dime?"  Aw, geez.  NOT.)

Here To Help The Paranoid

...What if, oh,  Something Bad happens and FEMA starts searching house-to-house.  Wouldn't it be handy to know what those "orange X" symbols mean and how to read them?  I'm here to help!  Have a look at this document.  (.pdf reader required)

     "International Orange" is a widely available shade of spray paint, the color of the Golden Gate bridge and the "red" stripes on  (non-strobelit) radio towers.  Just sayin'.

Things That Go "Bang!"

It's time to Go Shoot Something! -- And by "something," I mean pieces of paper.  Just in case the cut-out doll zombies attack.  Iggle Crick or Pop Guns?  I dunno, depends on the crowd.

     Chilly as it is, I could do with one of these.  Ahh, if only -- somewhere around here, there should be two thermal vacuum flasks similar to the ones trademarked "Thermos."  (Prolly in a box in the garage -- but which one? )

Update: Ha!  Creaking Eagles it was and nothin' like cold weather to keep 'em moving: a lot of cars in the parking lot but several pulled out as we arrived and unpacked.  There were plenty of spots.  I shot pretty well -- adequate to stop a goblin or at least scare him badly -- until my hands got cold and I started making Swiss Cheese of the paper.  Tam shot very well indeed, especially considering the .32 Colt Pocket Auto she shot (one-handed!) the most has "sights" more as a nod to the notion.  A good time was had by all.  (N.B. what you want working in the chill when you need to be barehanded part of the time is two pairs of gloves: one under your coat and next layer, the other on 'til you need better dexterity.  Then set that pair aside, load mags or whatever, put the warm ones on and stuff the pair you set aside under your outer garments where the warm ones were.  Repeat as needed and you are always puttin' on warm gloves when your hands are coldest.  This is especially true when loading .22 magazines). [1] 

     Later: Hog roast at LGG.  All day.  Better getcha some!  Update: Their blog explains why they skipped last week: ran into the unlicensed-plumber mindset: you can't be hangin' out a shingle and sellin' cooked food commercially unless you have all the right papers with the proper stamps, signatures, seals, colorful fluttery ribbons and inspections.  This bein' a) Indiana and b) Broad Ripple and the folks who run LGG having way more than a single clue, all straightened out in a week and we have us a new "restaurant" that consist mostly of a hog-smoker,[2] a serving table, some talented folks and marvelous food.

(Also, I'm told there's a big ISRPA meeting this afternoon.  Kewl!)
1. In really cold weather, you wear thin knit gloves, what Uncle Sam calls "glove liners," and swap overgloves or mittens cold-for-warm. Talk to me about combat-toughness all you like; I learned cold-weather tricks doin' TV live shots and the more comfy you keep yourself, the more effective you will be. It's the same reason all Winter I've usually got one more layer on than those around me: sufferin's fine for training -- you go real-world, you try'n stay within your limits and have something left for later if needed).
2. Y'know, a man calls me that, it would not help him any to smile unless context made it perfectly clear that barbeque hardware was under discussion. Just sayin'.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Indy November Blogmeet Or....

Moronpalooza? Seems there is a nationwide trend or a meme or whatever among bloggers who found themselves on the red-state side the other day: "Moronpalooza," gatherin' together to toast the good fight.

Naturally, there is one a-brewin' in Indy. Old Grouch has more. Looking 22-23ish. I think we should combine it with the next Indy BlogMeet; I was already pondering what to do about BlogMeeting in Nov and Dec and here's turkey month all basted and oven-ready!

Whattaya think?

Wordplay For The Day

Failed Business Ventures:  The fellow who bought nearly played-out diggings of a valuable metal with a low melting point and tried to turn it onto a tourist trap where visitors could experience first-hand what it was like to get the raw ore might have had a good idea with the proper metal, but somehow "Mine Your Own Bismuth" never caught on.

     (Especially with politicians, but that's a different posting)


Researching the metal bismuth, I found myself sidetracked to ultra-high power electromagnets.  Producing fields of up to 60 Tesla[1] and popular for, among other things, frog levitation (don't ask -- oh, okay), they are the strongest electromagnets made; it turns out above a certain flux density, superconductivity ceases and there you are, back in room-temperature physics again.

     The gadgets are Bitter Electromagnets, named after the inventor, Francis Bitter.  How interesting that a solenoid design[2] that can handle very large energies, suitable (perhaps) for a coilgun or Gauss rifle, would be named "bitter."

     Resistive heating of the electromagnet is one issue with such projectile weapons; it is possible the liquid-cooled Bitter design could be scaled down and use thermosiphoning or even be adapted for air cooling.  That leaves magnetic saturation of the thrown slug itself as the last big issue to cling to.  (Energy source?  Look to your cordless drill's battery packs, already working much like a magazine!)

     Lead, brass and powder is just one way.  There are others. 

     (If you think this is wild, wait'll you see electric rocket engines!)
1. I am reliably informed this is not the magnetic force required to compress 60 Teslas down to the volume normally occupied by one Tesla.  'Kay?
2. While the classic large design uses a series of stacked plates (overlapping and interleaved conductor and insulator) in the form of single turns of a helix, I wonder if one might machine the thing from a billet of copper and a chunk of PTFE or similar, perhaps with the longitudinal cooling and compression-bolt holes predrilled.  Then again, the gain in energy handling might not be worth it -- see "magnetic saturation."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

And This, They Think Is Admirable

"What?" you ask.  Why, Rahm Emanuel's steak-knife wielding calls of "Death!" for those he deems his political enemies.  (Small wonder he's anti-gun -- G-d forbid his enemies be able to defend themselves).

     LTFO.  They're loadin' the loose cannons aboard first

     I tell you true, I was going to leave the political stuff alone for awhile but the incoming El Supremo just won't let me.  Can't he even fake that so-called "moving to the center" the pundits tell us they all do?

Dear Diary

(Found sealed in a tin below a midden-pile in the ruined USian city of Trento, dating uncertain):

Most Esteemed Diary,

     At Education today in the Sharing, before we ate our beans and rice, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Dear Leader's gift of a new puppy to his obedient daughters.  The Group-Mother reminded us that it was an example of the importance of sharing (one puppy, two children) and obeying our Leaders, who are more dear to us than than parents and who are leading us to peace and prosperity.  After we ate, we shared crayons and colored in pictures of puppies. I didn't feel very hungry at all.  We could drink all the water we wanted because it was special day.  The Group-Mother started screaming strange things about poor starving ragged children and the National Service Helpers had to take her away.  I don't know who she was talking about.  We got to go home early and Jimi said the Group-Mother was probably going to have to go to Education herself but he's bad and doesn't share very good.  I think he was trying to be mean about my Daddy.

     Before he had to go away to learn how to follow Dear Leader better, my Daddy told me about the puppies he had when he was a boy.  I wish I had a puppy.  Daddy said they were delicious roasted or boiled.  Maybe when we all learn how to share properly, everybody will get puppies.  At least once a year.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Food! 'Nother Hog Roast On The Horizon!

No word on their website but if I understood the sign at the market, Locally Grown Gardens will have another Hog Roast this coming Saturday.  Home made bread, prolly more fine pies, very fine salmon if pork's not your thing....  Ahhh, Broad Ripple in the Fall.

Well, That's That

The election is over; the Electoral College has worked the way it was supposed to and turned a fairly close popular vote into a clear result, one citizens could look at and say, "Gee, We Lost" or "Hooray, We Won."  Your state may have gone red or blue but once again when you look at a county-by county -- or better still a precinct-by-precinct -- map of the United States, it is clear that just like in 2004, we live in a purple country.  Lots of red, lots of blue.  Been that way a long time and it's not changing.

     As for me, I welcome our President-elect with the exact same respect and good feeling the Democrats gave George W. Bush.  Except I'm not prying the "O" key off any keyboards.

     For those of you who have bemoaned the so-called "Patriot Act" and incursions on the Constitutionally-protected rights of citizens under the Bush administration, let me remind you that in two years of a Democrat majority in Congress, not a single one of those tools had been taken off the table.  Now the Democrats have the Executive Branch as well and it will be interesting to see what they do with them -- and what you have to say about it when they do.  I have not been impressed by that aspect of President G. W. Bush's tenure, either -- but I don't think the Opposition will be any better.  They may select a slightly different group of targets, is all.  Possibly including me.  Promise me you'll still be outraged?  At least a little?  Hmpf.

     ...In closing, let me point out that "Chimpy McHilterburton" totally failed to declare martial law, name himself El Supremo for life and shut down the polls yesterday.  Those of you with the bills of your tinfoil hats tilted Left, it just might be possible you have them set too tight and have cut off blood to your brain.  You've got a few months left to simmer in your own paranoia, though, and I wish you much joy of it.  Aw, heck with it, let's splurge -- I'm callin' up the lads at NSA* and begging them to turn the mind-control rays they beam at you all the way up to eleven!
* Hey, wow, they've even got a kid's page!  Be sure to bring your crayons.  You can learn Morse Code there, too.  Whatta country -- our spookiest spooks have a museum with gift shoppe and kewl kids pages on their website!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

All Across America...

...The lights are going out, often by very narrow margins.

  I wanna know why they're callin' Ohio for Mr. Obama with 59% of the votes counted and a three-point difference between the candidates.  VA's the same 51/48 split but at 91% of the results in, a bit more of a settled contest.  Indiana is 50/49 and at any given moment, no telling who's ahead.  Sad, we used to be such a dependable state.

     One of my co-workers is sure this one will end up before the courts.  Maybe.

     --People (bloggers) are saying, "Whoever wins, let's be good sports and get behind him."   Like the Democrats did President Bush?  Sorry, pal, I'll be harshly critical.  Whoever wins.  (It looks bad for Mr. McCain but the night's not over yet).  President of the U. S. is an executive job; he might run my government but the President, any President, is not my "leader." He's not the boss of me, or you, either; he's the guy we hire to talk to Kings and be Commander in Chief of the armed forces.

Go Vote!

...Sit down tonight with some popcorn and watch the results.  Who knows, it might even be fun.  Unlike "CSI: Law and Order," or whatever is hot on the tube these days, it's not made up.  Well, mostly not.  Kind of.

Monday, November 03, 2008

On Civilization

I really ought to post something on the eve of this historic election.

     It's no surprise to me that speculation is rife about possible excitement once the results (or lack thereof -- one of my coworkers is sure this will be another Presidential race decided by a courtroom fight) are announced.  A lot of folks are expecting that post-sports-championship reaction on a grand scale.

     Could be and it's a pity if so.  Civilizations generally fall slowly but civility and civil order seem to start eroding first.  It doesn't take a very big slice of the population to decide it's a good night to fight or torch cars to make a real big mess for the grown-ups to have to sort out.

     I remain convinced that a hard core of good sense yet lingers.  We've got a pretty good thing here with this whole United States thing -- let's not be in too big a hurry to tear it up.  While a few witlings are undoubtedly primed to throw a fit no matter what the outcome I think there are more good and decent folk than there are barbarians.  Could be we'll have to step up.  Probably worth pondering.

     And if you haven't voted?  Better get out there and do so.  Better to be a hanging chad than to do nothing, dare nothing and hang in the shadows.

On Voting And After

"If you don't vote, you can't gripe about the outcome," they say.  Hogwash!  If you are eligible but don't vote tomorrow, you can still complain -- but don't expect to be taken seriously.

     (Dr. Freud?  I think I slipped: originally typed "income" instead of "outcome."  Certainly one of the possibilities for  latter will lessen the take-home component of the former in buying power and as a percentage of one's gross.  I expect massive inflation along with tax hikes if the Senator from Chicago wins and that's just for starters.  Oh, interesting times, interesting times -- I hate "interesting times.")

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Gotcher Action Movies

Right here: (Breda, look away).

Ahh, the octopode! Eat your freakin' heart out, James Bond.
(Via Notebook of a Mermaid).

Grist For The Mill

Quoting myself from comments at The Munchkin Wrangler:

" Too many of the brave and the good have died for the rights of the loud-mouthed and fatheaded; it's time the yammerheads stepped up and put their lives, fortunes and sacred liberty where their mouths are."

Yeah, it's not selfless or noble but every time somebody quotes the old saw about "I may not agree with what you say but I'll defend to the death your right to say it," I get my back up and think of Patton reminding his troops that it was not their job to die for their country but to ensure that the bad guys did the dieing. If your notions are so darned fine, you go to the line for 'em.

Too often, the West provides a safe harbor for the vipers who bite us. Oh, I'm not sayin' to shut 'em down. I'm all for free speech but by golly, when witlings get themselves in hot water by speaking freely, it's not my responsibility to fish 'em out; and I don't have to listen to them rant, either. It's "free speech," not "captive audience" or even "free lecture hall and PA system."

Tax Dollars At Work?

I didn't get an "economic stimulus check" but Uncle Sam is stimulating the dead over at Staghound's.

     Congress: clever enough to try to get the dead to spend.  Y'know, I believe they'd splint a corpse's broken leg and ignore the guy bleeding to death if the first was easier for 'em than the second.


I admit it: I love shopping.

     My definition of "shopping" might not be the same as yours; to me, a gun show or a hamfest is shopping.  Feast of the Hunter's Moon?  Shopping, huge shopping: cloaks and pottery and knives and books, just plain wonderful stuff of all sorts and usually good value for the price, too.

     Big-box stores, not so much, though Tar-zhey often wins me over with the chain's sense of fun and style.

     Department stores?  Malls? It varies.  There are a lot of wondrous things -- Godiva chocolates, delightful rugs and furniture, housewares of a quality one rarely finds elsewhere but I find large enclosed spaces disorienting[1] and tend, therefore, to stick to a few I know.

     And then there's shopping for "nice" clothing.  Shoes aren't so bad as long as I avoid trendy places that sneer at size nine-and-a-half and bear in mind that most shoes simply don't fit the shape of my feet[2] but finding clothing at an upscale place can be a challenge: Most women my size and age are, well, not in shape, while most women who are in shape are significantly smaller and/or younger and thus trendier.[3]  For work, I wear jeans and basic tops -- T-shirts Summer, long-sleeved knits Winter -- and add a zip-up, hooded sweat-shirt.  This is, if you were wondering, not the thing to wear while shopping for  holiday-evening attire at a high-end department store or mall shoppe, especially if the jeans show signs of actual work-wear.  It results in either being completely ignored by the sales staff ("Maybe she'll just go away!") or the kind of nervous hovering that implies I'm about to Track Mud on all their Nice Things.

     I usually end up at the vintage/retro/consignment places.  They're no more likely to have my size but at least I don't get treated like poor relations.  And that makes for fun shopping!
1. I can't figure it: I'm comfortable in wide-open spaces, I actually like small enclosed spaces (and would go caving if I could find the time and equipment), I don't mind the city or the woods....but get me in a large, enclosed space and I get the creeps.  Sports stadiums?  Scary empty and a nightmare full.  Mega-malls?  Walking Hell.  Ghastly.  I couldn't even explain how bad it was until I found this.
2. Foot-shaped: wide of toe, narrow-heeled and with very high arches and insteps.  Most people appear to have feet the approximate shape of a submarine.  How can they even balance?
3. There are, gentleman readers, styles and "looks" that are rillyrilly cute at 20 which fall way worse than flat at 40.  Ew.