Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mary Baker Eddy Goes Paperless

The final daily print edition of the venerable Christian Science Monitor hit the stands four days ago. They haven't abandoned traditionalists entirely -- there's still a weekly edition.

A little item rarely mentioned in this context (and one I would not have known if an old friend had not ended up in the job) is that the purchase of newsprint is the largest single item in most newspaper's budgets. It is somewhat speculative; buying the right amount at the right price at the right time -- or failing to -- can make the difference between profit or loss for a newspaper. Some guy or gal you've never heard of, who does not own, publish, edit, report, sell ad space or lay out pages can make or break the Local Whizbang Daily. And maybe that is a little whack.

--The flip side is, a print article is well-nigh impossible to alter once it's hit the streets, while on the Web, "Make it didn't happen," is altogether too easy. There are ways around -- Google's caches, if you're fast, sites like Wayback Machine if you're not -- but none of them are as accessable or as solid as last week's paper.

Time marches on, often in ways few saw coming. What's over the horizon?

Update: More and better on Why The Newspapers Died from print journalism insider Joanna.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More Big China Fun

...Honestly, I had no idea the Red Menace was this menacing: Vast Computer Spy Network (discovered by...Canadians! They are our first line of defence, after all).

Something to consider as the clock ticks down to the 1 April activation of the "Conficker C" virus, ey?

Sunday, March 29, 2009


...Sorry I haven't posted much today. Looks like the BlogMeet will be just me and....crickets....

Maybe Tam, maybe her pal, possibly one or two others.

Update: Or, possibly Tam, Shootin' Buddy, Kerry, Kerry Sr., Caleb, Joanna, Old Grouch, Mr. Images and the Shermlock family, plus a couple more!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Indy BlogMeet Tomorrow!

Broad Ripple Brew Pub. Open to bloggers and blog-readers!

(Today, for me, much digging out from under and laundry; my road-trip left me with a bit more to get done).

BlogMeet Sunday: See you there!

Friday, March 27, 2009

By The Way...?

There is no Moon. We've been had!

Name Game

First -- as my readers faithfully pointed out -- GWOT became OCO.

And now? Now NYC's "rebuild even taller!" response to the 9/11 barbarians is no longer Freedom Tower. Nope, it's right back to One World Trade Center.

...And it's only a coincidence this happens at the same time as our bestest pals EVAR, Red China, has signed a long-term lease on a couple floors of the building-to-be. They're not afraid of the word "freedom," they use it all the time -- just like in Orwell's 1984.

What Are You Going To Do To It?

...That's what Caleb asked about my new Sistema Colt. He and I have a very different take on what to do with a 1911 but I simply answered, "Clean it and shoot it," without considering that a serious competition shooty-guy would naturally view a bone-stock 1911 as the raw material you took to the 'smith to have turned into a gun.

I am not a total purist:

The chipped edge of the sear probably contributes to an unreasonably heavy trigger, which I will have an Actual Gunsmith correct.

The lovely wide-spur hammer bites me, unlike my .38 Super 1911's only slightly more modest hammer. Correcting that calls for one of two changes and here I do get a little picky: the fix cannot require changes to the frame and has to be reversible. So I need either a little "beavertail" grip safety of the drop-in variety, which is tactically doubleplus uncool 'cos that kind interferes with the proper high grip or a spurless hammer like the Cylinder & Slide Warp Speed, which I'm pretty sure would have to be professionally fitted, especially since I want to be able to put the original hammer back in. I prefer the second option but I'm still thinkin'.

Sights. Ow. The original sights are not bad; unlike my .38SA, nobody's polished the corners off the front sight. Still, nice three-dots would work better for me. If I have modern sights installed, that'll be irreversible.

What I'm after is to make changes that will make the gun nicer to shoot without losing the classic feel and look of the gun. I like 'em simple but not ugly.

Number Theory On Planet Karen

The difference between zero and one is larger than any other? Yep, it kinda is!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oh For Annie Oakley's Sake

...Marko's gone and started the Girls With Guns flingfest again. Tam's in the fray, too, which means odds are not so very good for the other side. Right, wrong, I dunno from the big objective, sociobiological, philosophic, with a capital T Truth* but I know who'll lose and it will not be Tamara K.

Me, hey, LOOKIT me, my eyes are Up Heeeeere, thank you, me I normally carry around enough visible hardware of the sharp, pointy variety that a smart feller or even a merely clever one usually knows better than to get too talking-to-a-child with me. Usually is not always, which I will get to in the next paragraph. Otherhandly, some men loathe me on sight, in part because in the right mood, stalking a gun show for example, I can come off pretty butch. I'm not all nice and dainty like Mom, Sis or their gurrrrrlfriend. Hey, too bad; those sellers don't get my money. Them: Fail!

The guys that do try to talk down? I can promise you, if you are a merchant, if you try that I will see just what I can talk you into or out of, because you're an idiot and I can probably exploit it. Outside a commercial setting, I may give you enough rope to hang yourself in front of Ghu an' everybody or nod a lot while making notes on how a certain type of goit behaves, 'cos I do write and I like to work from life; could be you'll get into print as a frikkin' maroooooon! ("...Make y'famous..." as one Kid may've said). And that's how the game is played; if you don't like it, maybe you had better stick to sports with a referee, 'cos I'm not gonna make nice with you like your Mama did.
* I really do. not. know. "Sexist?" Gender is one of the first things we notice about a person, quite often followed by deciding if we'd kick 'em out of bed or not, despite the low probablity of finding out. Right, wrong or neutral, it's one of the reasons why our species is not extinct. That doesn't make it nice to be treated like a child (or, for the boys, a brute) but maybe if we all stuffed a sock in the whole "sexist" (agesist, racist, whatever) hot-button an' worked on' bein' civil or at least minimally polite to all the losers, ijits, geeks and heros we meet, we'd get more light an' less heat. --And okay, your ex ripped your heart out. Hey, so did mine; neither is enough to impugn an entire gender.

It's Oceania vs. Eurasia? --Or Eastasia?

I can't keep track but they can. Our dear -- our very good and great friends who own and operate Red China (NASDAQ: PRC?) have decided to get all huffy over a published Pentagon report about their growing military might.

"China has constantly taken the path of peaceful development...," spluttered a Foreign Ministry spokescommie. Y'know, like the way they "peacefully developed" Tibet. Other examples spring to mind.

This is the same country that was only the other day callin' for a new global reserve currency t'replace the dollar. Oh, hells yeah, I trust 'em. Not.

Looky here, if China ever wants to get tough, it'll make the GWOT* look like a hair-pulling spat at Girl Scout cookout. Of course our FedGov keeps an eye on 'em. And bein' the United States, of course they publish some of what they've found out. Don't like it, PRC? Tough. We're watchin'.
* Global War On Terror. Doublethinky name, real IEDs.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Home Again

...Home again, and I never even took the good airship. I'm dead on my feet and possibly mildly ill. Seeya in the morning. Mom X is back t'her home and her cat-sized dog, who was delighted to see her again.

Warm Glow candle-place is very nice. Go there, lookit all the kewl stuff. Eat. Watch the koi. (There's a Model T museum in a nearby building too, but I wanted to see the candles and nifty foods and day-corative things and missed it this time. A few miles down the road, there is a huge antique mall, which I didn't visit this trip either but it's been good every time I've been there).

On the other hand, back in OH North of Columbus, we stopped at the nastiest little truck stop I have seen in a long while. Put you right off humanity, it would. Feh.

I'm eatin' a PB&J an' goin' to bed.

Mom X: Okay!

Got Mom X out of hospital last night, slept over at Day's Inn (Oooo, free breakfast!) and we're headed back.

Thanks for all your positive thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guest Appearance

Or is it? I might be in somebody elses's SF yarns!

...It's called "Tuckerization." Pretty kewl. If you haven't been dropping into the Gravity Well, you might want to.


Check out this here promotising. Listen real close:
"This is America. We figgured out how to put a man on the Moon..."
No, fool, we put a man on the Moon. Except it was two men at a time, several times. And it wasn't any nebulous "we," it was a huge lot of scientists and engineers and techs and paper-shufflers and doctors and lawyers and secretaries and pi-luts what did it; the rest of us just watched and paid taxes, or our parents did.

Lots of people, companies, nations have figured out how to put a man on the Moon. China has. Russia did as a nation -- and a long lifetime earlier, one Russian pretty well doped it out, too. Werner von Braun did it several times before he ever came to the U.S. and I'm pretty sure Hermann Oberth or Robert Goddard could'a talked you through what it took, too. Verne ran the math far enough to realize the method he used in his book would squish the passengers -- but he outlined the problem in a way that points to the answer.

...And if you are a certain kind of fool, dreaming about it, talking about it, why, that's every bit as good as really doing it.

Except it isn't.

Go there. Do the thing. Then you'll be great. Up 'til that point? Just another dime-a-dozen dreamer; and bless them, we need them -- but dreams alone will not get you there.

Unless you're a hot-air merchant. Like -- well, you know.

Five hunnert'n thirty-five, six, seven....

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's A Big World

...And I have neither the time nor the inclination to remove all the marooooons in it. You should be very grateful.

Also? Most of the labels we stick on people, especially the people we just see on TV and read about in the paper, hinder clear thinking as much as they help. If not more.

Dumb Event, Dumb Writing

What's Wrong With This Picture: A) "None of the...people did not actually use the latrine, which was...a fake," they write. So the ijits did use it, then? And it wasn't a real loo? Now that's repugnant!

B) If you actually meant what I think you meant, um, that's not a real queue for relief unless people really did, you know, relive themselves, in, like, a real latrine. Sorry, Euroweenies, no record.

C) If the Third World needs more and better damn bathrooms (and they do), don'cha think it might help more if you stopped playing in Brussels and at least sent them a few darn shovels? Some concrete? Maybe even expert toilet designers? (Some motivated and clever Indians have already got a nifty mininal-cost latrine design in production -- and they'll get ya the plans [.pdf] Uses water but 2 liters max per, er, "customer"). Put your muscles where your useless, bleedin' hearts are! --Or shaddup. Srsly. Stop playin' feel-good games with real people's real problems.

Mom X -- Improving

Mom is better, rehydrated and she and the docs have a good idea what happened and how to treat it. That's the word from my brother. Prognosis is good.

I'm still trying to reach my sister. If Mom X isn't released to go home by midday today, she and I are supposed to drive Mom X's Boatmobile up to Middleburg Heights, take over Momwatch from Baby Bro and provide chauffeur service back to the palatial X Estates. Um, that would be supposing I ever reach anything besides voicemail, since she's got the Boatmobile keys.

My thanks -- and hers! -- for your prayers and concern. Hoping to have Mom X home by Wednesday.

Ah, Indy!

- Exploring a honkin' huge gun show with Tam, Shootin' Buddy, Frank W. James* and Caleb.

- Sitting outside in the sun on the steps of another of the huge buildings at the fairgrounds, field-stripping a new Sistema Colt 1911A1 and nobody panics, freaks out, or even gives more than a passing glance. Perfectly ordinary sight.

- UPDATE: Also, before and after the above, I was reading Michael Z. Williamson's brand-new novel, Contact With Chaos, purchased from and autographed by the man himself, minutes before. That's two Amendments, right there!

- Sunday, the Data Viking and I took a small sample of the Indy Parks system: shooting in the morning at the Eagle Creek Park public range (I shot Shootin' Buddy's silenced Ruger 22/45-based "staplegun," 4 mags, yayy!), across town in the afternoon to explore Garfield Park: Conservatory, Sunken Garden, Victorian Pagoda and Art Center. The last was an entirely unexpected surprise, a big and not especially well-marked building perched at the brow of a hill. Turns it it's the old 1930s poolhouse (the swimming pool long since relocated), formerly the home of a basketball court, dancing bears and sundry other oddiments, and now a nifty art center with all manner of activities, even a small recording studio space! As we walked up to it, a door opened and one of the Parks workers popped out, told us what the building was and invited us in. Better than a sign!

- Dinner at Brigid's with friends. If I could cook that well, I'd never leave the house. Well, other than to go to the grocer's.

Ah, Indy!
* Hie thyself to Frank's blog and read his inside info about egg-farming.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Steam-Powered Airplane

It flew! Not the only one, either. When it comes to kewl? You really just have to say "steam plane" and you're done.

Gun Show Finds

UPDATE: Shot the gun today at the range with the Data Viking, Tam and Shootin' Buddy. Got (mildly) hammerbit. Pull is way too heavy. Feeds (JHPs, all I had) fine, hates the Kimber mag it came with, works well with a real-Colt GI magazine. The tiny sights are not bad. I'm thinkin' a drop-in beavertail, sear work (chipped, nasty edge) and maybe a set of Trijicons -- and that's work I'll have a professional do.

Tamara found a "Corvette parked in a barn" and a rare and exotic one at that; me, I maybe found an MGB with a "For Sale" sign in someone's from yard.

I was doin' the noseprints-on-glass thing, lookin' at Colt revolvers,[1] Star semi-autos[2] and wild and crazy air pistols with no intention of buying, lookin' for Webley and Enfield revolvers[1] (455: Revolver Not Found) -- oh, yes, at 1911s generally, just 'cos. (You know who designed that gun [PBUH]?)

Suddenly a 1911A1-ish example caught my eye -- was that a....

It was. Took a closer look. Wasn't all hacked up, just some Hogue "G00dyear" grips. Had it out of the case. Asked the man what he wanted, 4 was it? Thought. Offered three. He came back with $350, American. Sold!Of course, I had to take it apart as soon as I got home.[3] It was in this state when my brother called and it had to sit awhile.

Recognize it? There's a clue near the center of the photo.
Here's a closer look. Should be pretty obvious by now.

...And now a side rant: when I detail-stripped this gun, there was A) Rust under the aftermarket grips. Rust. Geesh. B) Worse, I cleaned caked grease off a lot all of the interior -- grease and soot from the trigger and its grooves, grease from every spring, corner, hammer-hooks and sear -- everywhere! And sticky, Cosmoline-type grease at that. So as near as I can figure, previous owners took the thing out of the box, swapped out the grips in a light drizzle, shot it some, and (based on the barrel as well as evidence cited above), never cleaned it.

Y'know, guns work dirty; service sidearms are expected to run just fine filthy. But there is a point where the grunge, muck and yeech makes them stop and why in the name of all that is right and proper woulja ever wanna start out with a sticky-grimy gun? I don't get it. I just don't get it.

So, if you're still wondering, the denouement (with rosewood grips loaned by Tam) follows, after reassembly and in close-up...

.....Drumroll, please! Yep, a Sistema Colt. Made in the late '40s. All the numbers match. And not a bad price. The nice Sistemas were long gone years before I realized I wanted one, so I was especially happy to stumble on this one. Aside from neglect -- and a really low ;) serial number[4] -- it does not appear to have been abused. A trip to the range will be required!
1. 'Cos Tam has S&Ws, see? And she's quicker'n me, too.

2. I really, really ought to pick up a Firestar in .40 just for completeness. The 9 and .45 are nice, though very heavy. On the other hand -- what would I
do with it?

3. For the sharp-eyed: I had the detent pins & spring assembly out, cleaned it and its housing, and put it right back in. They like to run away and hide otherwise. UPDATE: Removed, cleaned and reinstalled the magazine latch, too and for the same reason.

4. People make fun of Microsoft Paint but it is not so bad as all that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mom X

I was going to post about today's Fun Show -- I may yet, Tam's not the only one to have found something kewl -- but something's come up: my Mother, the famous Mom X, collapsed at an intermediate airport, flying to visit siblings. Word is she's stable now but so far, only Big Sis X has managed to actually speak with her, rather than nurses or the doctor. I may be flying to the Mistake On The Lake tomorrow, depending on what I find out in the next few minutes. I'm pretty sure one of Mom's sisters was flying with her.

I make no bones about being a little tone-deaf to faith. Mom X, on the other hand, takes a deep and abiding comfort in hers. If you pray, if you could spare a word for her, I know it will do her good. I'm going to give it a try myself -- at the very least, it won't do any harm.

UPDATE: Looks likely I'll be heading her way Monday, unless the docs decide to send her back to Indy that day. Baby Bro is flying up tomorrow. Medically, she's stable.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Bankrupt Bunker?

Say you had a lavish resort hotel in a beautiful location, not terribly far away from Washington D.C., Baltimore and Richmond. What an opportunity! Imagine the voters had approved a measure allowing casino-type gambling, wouldn't that be great? Now add that the place included a huge Cold War bunker once intended as the atomic-war relocation center for the U.S. Congress! Can't miss, right?

Wrong. Maybe it's that faint whiff of Congressbeings? The historic Greenbriar has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is yellin' "Hey, sailor!" at the Mariott chain even as we speak. Odds are good the deal will go through but if ever you wanted to tour the bunker? Might not wanna put off any longer. Just in case.

Fun Show!

Yes, it's that time again: the Spring Indy 1500 Gun and Knife show starts today.

Looks like Tam and I will be there Saturday -- if you see a couple of tallish wimmen, do say Howdy!

UPDATE: How could I not forget Shootin' Buddy, our host for the show? Look for the man in a wookie suit dapper, confident, fit and smiling fellow accompanying two tall women. Say hello to him. Buy a gun from him. Unless he's sold it already.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Day, Part 4

Starboard Stores and Cargo is a bustling place - think "Post Office," "UPS" and a touch of "You-Store-It." Portside S&C is more cargo-oriented, with admin offices, central control for their remote container-movers and so on, with just a small "post office" area; there's a smaller S&C office up and forward in passenger/commercial territory. But Starboard's where the action is and today was no exception. It's a happenin' joint, by starship standards. There were a handful of people in line at the service window; others were picking up inter-ship mail (there's a bit of it) at banks of mailboxes that wouldn't have looked out of place in any U. S. Post Office about 1960 and a few were at the gate for large parcels, picking or dropping off. Past the counter, I could see a couple of S&C guys - stocky, fit, young - and my friend from Security, working on one of the goofy overhead doors on the small storage areas for secure items.* She looked over, saw me and waved, then turned back to confer with the S&C techs. I didn't see anyone else I knew; so much for scoping things out!

The deck shimmied sideways, then rose and fell under my feet, or so it felt. A couple of the people in line staggered, one fell and everyone reached for the nearest handhold. "That's not a good sign," I muttered to myself.

The usual hubbub started up - "What happened," "You okay?" "Whoo!" and so on.

My friend turned and gave me the eye, walked to the parcel gate. "Hey! Bobbi, what just happened?"

When six feet of Security officer ask, you answer; besides, she's good folks. "I know as much as you, right now. Um, if I had to guess, the 'Drives fluttered and the ion engines compensated—" And then my pager went off, what a su-prise.

And the Chief's initials. Uh-oh. "Gotta git, T. Duty calls."

* * *

The Chief didn't have a lot to add to his page and what I'd felt; the #2 Phantasmajector had glitched off, hard, and wouldn't come back up. The 'Drives were idling; we'd dropped subliminal our last short superluminal hop on approach was a few days ago and they were only working enough to aid the ion reaction drive in making our inbound trajectory. But losing a third of the output suddenly is a bit much for the automatic systems to handle. They'll damp the lurch down enough to keep the ship in one piece, is all.

When I reached the 'Drive Room (in the goofy little electric car, after a quick jog - rest - jog across a mile of slidewalk and sundry utility corridors), it didn't smell right. Too much ozone and fried phenolic. But nary an overload showin' on the Christmas Trees (red/green fault/normal indicators on each big phantasmajector amplifier). #2 was sitting in BACK HEAT; I punched the LOCAL button on the panel, then STANDBY. Drive Amp Cooling came up, fine, and...

And nothin'. Next step should be green lights for FULL HEAT, DRIVER POWER, and after five minutes, HEATER DELAY and READY. Should. Didn't. If it wasn't so loud I had to wear earplugs, I'd probably be hearing' crickets.

Greeeeeeeat. Time to open 'er up and that's not a one-tech job; there are too many ways to A) harm yourself and B) more importantly, damage the 'Drive. Called the Chief: "It's not an easy one, Boss; I'll need another pair of hands. Maybe Dave."

"Yeah? I need him here, we lost half the MUXes in that lurch. I've got Johnny Zed on his way."

Double great. But the surest way to get on the Chief's bad side is to whine; he's fond of pointing out that we're in the results business, not the excuse business. Besides, how dead could I get? "That'll be fine, Boss! Lookin' forward to it."

* There's quite a complicated little arrangement of springs, latches and weights to switch these overhead doors between zero-G and normal, 1-G acceleration function. It breaks frequently. I'm startin' to develop a theory about the real reason why HAL was so weird about the pod bay doors.

Feed Me!

Fancy bagel-based sammiches until 0400? (That's ayem, it is)

Man, I love Broad Ripple.

Just A Thought

Tiberius was a hard SOB (as a commenter at View From The Porch reminds us) but that doesn't excuse his successor.

...If you're having trouble remembering the Emperors of Rome, the next batter up was that feller Caligula -- hailed, early on, as the bright young hope, the shining leader who would fix it all: The One.

History: the more things change, the more it keeps repeating. Will we get a Triple Crown winner in the Senate before the final curtain?

Kindle? Kindling?

Interesting thoughts about Amazon's Kindle. Whattaya think?

Me, I dislike any format I can't read in the bathtub. YMMV.

Roseholme Update

Grrr! The garage door opener -- not the remote, the gadget itself -- here at Roseholme stopped workin' a few weeks ago; close inspection revealed the $25.00 plastic worm and spur gears that drive the sprocket that runs the chain that moves the traveller that hooks to the pinned linkage that lifts the door to the house that Jack built (wait! One step too far), those gears had shredded one another. Parts are cheap and that's a homeowner-level repair...or a $150.00 service call.

We were making do 'til the weather warmed up, unhitched the linkage between door and drive chain and ran it manually; it has a lock and everything, so no problem, right? Noble pioneer spirit, right?

Right. Right up until last night; Tam made an emergency corned beef sammich-fixins run, all of fifteen minutes; door worked perfectly on her departure. When she returned home, not so much: it took both of us to get the door open. Once the Zed III Light Urban Scout Vehicle was docked, I found what you're already suspecting: a broken spring.

The honkin' big springs that assist overhead doors, not so much a homeowner-level project. Also, prolly not so cheap. Time for me to call Overhead Door. And $pend.


UPDATE: Just got off the 'phone with the overhead door people and I have a rough e$$$timate. While I do not have a Tip Jar, Tam -- who drives one of the two convertibles presently trapped in our garage -- does. Just sayin'.

UPDATE II: Our door, she is feex! The torsion springs this thing takes are massive; the door-tech helpfully shared a story to Tam about the guy that trained him taking a tensioning-bar hit to the face while showing him the ropes: 16 stitches, two lost teeth. Our guy took two days off to rethink his career choices, but I guess the fame and glory drove him back. Huge and heartfelt Thank You to all the helpful tippers. This repair is way less wallet-painful than it could have been -- you guys are the best!

And yes, I probably could have fixed it. (I was ready to do the gears, that's simple enough). If I had time. If I was willing to fight the torsion springs. Kinda lacked the time and muscle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PSH: Lawn Darts And "Cop-Killer Bullets"

Brass cop-killer bullets, which makes it even awfuller! Eeeeee!

I'm readin' an article about the wonderful, much-missed and most definitely dangerous lawn darts, when I notice sidebar text below a "No Lawn Darts" graphic:
Lawn darts have joined RU-486 (the abortion bill), the 2 Live Crew, and the song Copkilla as "Banned in the USA." Copkillin' brass bullets, however, remain available.
Typos and semi-illiterate writing aside, I wonder if the writer knows that "cop-killin' Chevy Impalas" and "cop-killin' erroneous prescriptions" also remain available? Or that there are no magic policeman-seeking rounds?

But that's not all! After an outline of the 1988 Consumer Products Safety Commission ban of lawn darts, the writer adds:
Perhaps the Lawn Dart industry has been negligent in not dishing out a few tens of millions a year in bribes to members of congress.
The last half of the sentence contained a link to a Brady Center article about an NRA A-rated U.S. Congressthing convicted of taking bribes -- but not from any firearms manufacturer or group.

PSH: it lurks where you least expect it. Happy lawn-darting!

No Guns At Atlanta's Airport?

At least that's where it stands at present. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court's ruling upholding the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport's sweeping gun ban: the entire airport is a "gun-free zone."

The lower court's ruling, if newspaper accounts are to be trusted, demonstrated a remarkable ignorance:
In September, Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob threw out the suit. Shoob said public transit systems are not the same as airports and airline passengers are not allowed to carry firearms onboard.
Say wha'? Perhaps literally so, but people can and do quite legally fly with firearms as checked baggage all the time. It's normal, ordinary; there are procedures in place for it. ...Except, one has to suppose, at airports that have declared themselves to be "gun-free zones." Wow, I'll bet that really makes the criminals think twice!

Read the article (there's a survey!). This fight's not over yet -- GeorgiaCarry.org and state Rep. Timothy Bearden are continuing their efforts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Think Of It As Leaving A Lousy Tip

I don't so much do the "quote of the day" thing; there are others who do it far better. But this caught my eye:
If you think this economy is a mess now, imagine what it would look like if the business community started to worry that the government would start abrogating contracts left and right.
It's in re the AIG bonuses. Hey, a deal's a deal. If Uncle Sam wants AIG to ask the employees who'll be receiving those bonuses to forgo their bonuses, that's one thing; contracts can generally be renegotiated if all the parties agree. But if the Feds just jerk the rug out from under entirely legal, ordinary agreements, where does it stop? What's next?

One part of "next" would be, Wall Street's already low confidence in the Administration would flicker out. The only meaningful skill remaining would be the ability to influence the government to benefit your employer or yourself, a state of affairs many citizens think is already too frequent.

Does it sting, handing over a tiny percentage (do your own math -- $165*10^6/$170*10^12, multiply by 100, keeps comin' up .0001% for me)* of the bailout to some of the same talent that already steered AIG onto the rocks? Sure it does. But it stings a million times more -- literally! -- to be bailing them out at all. We're stuck with that.

EDIT: 165*10^6/$170*10^9, so 0.1%. Arrgh! See comments.

The big bonuses are big, set against my pay or probably yours. Compared to the total bailout, it's like leaving a penny tip for bad service, so the waitperson will know you didn't just forget.
* So I rounded. 0.000097058% 0.097058% suit you better? I quite often get burned when I play with numbers outside my usual ambit, so wait for the "you're doing it wrong" comments to roll in.

Another Day, Part 3

Doc looks less like a former high-ranking SF officer than anyone I know — approximately egg-shaped and nearly as bald, he moves with the care and economy of someone who's put in a lot of zero-G time. He's 70 but looks 50. Scuttlebutt is he was Regular Army, dirtside, before he went into medicine. Or maybe not so regular — some kind of Special Forces. Given the black-budget nature of every part of Space Force, it's plausible. All I know for sure is there's very little that surprises him and he knows a lot more than he lets on.

"This is about the Schramm and the Bearcat, isn't it?" I asked.

Doc nodded.

My first two Engineering berths — I was just a 'Drive-tender aboard the Schramm, back when they were still required, though a tug like that ship about had to have 'em: tugs have massively powerful 'Drives in a small, stout frame and when things get out of control -- well, they'd better not, is all. Schramm hauled bulk ores, entire asteroids, for the refinery ship Wayrue. Tenders rode out the Jumps in heavily shielded compartments just off the four 'Drive rooms, ready to cope with breakdowns on a moment's notice. One fine Jump, a rigger disconsolate, drunk or just plain crazy had sat himself on the 'Drive field emitter for my set of 'Drives and when the PAs shut down on excessive reflected power, it was already too late. I'd been first to find him and had spent the next hour all alone with the remains in the airlock.

The Bearcat incident was more recent, a cargo-hauler I signed aboard after a year spent teching at a factory dirtside (Kansas II, for an embarrassingly large salary. I learned to love barbecue and found out the bottom of a gravity well wasn't for me). It was smallish, short-hop rig compared to Lupine, looping freight Kansas II - Honeyweal - Blizzard, oil, grain and heavy machinery mostly, but "smallish" means a couple of miles across and operating at seven-eighths of a standard G, while "mostly freight" included a dozen passenger rooms. A Junior Jayhawk fratboy had bribed his way onto the hull and headed out to climb the 'Drive mast on a bet. He made it about halfway up, too. I headed the gang that found him, after his buddies realized something had gone terribly wrong and went to the Captain. I'd worked my way up to Chief Engineer by then but after the inquest, all the officers and section chiefs found their contracts terminated. Including me. Had it not been for Lupine's previous Second Officer's willingness to look beyond that, I might still be cooling my heels under too much blue sky.

Between those two incidents, one of them about as career-limiting as they come, I was the closest Lupine came to having an expert on death by 'Drive field. It wasn't much of an honor. I looked at the monitor again — it had cycled to a wider and thankfully pre-autopsy shot — and noticed the name stenciled across the pressure-suit overalls: EMILY L. "Dam- doggone it, that's not Em, not even close..."

"Nope. DNA's no match to any crew, subcontractor or passenger."

Mike added, "And I don't want you telling anybody that, either."

"You think we've got hitchers?" I had to ask.

"Not guessing. Officially? No. No way."

Doc cleared his throat. "Impossible her presence aboard may be, that young woman is dead and I think you can now be quite, quite certain how she died. 'Why' is your department. Although...?"

Mike snorted. "You guys read too many detective novels. Yeah. Sure. If I need help, I'll call ya. Bobbi, you too."
* * *

I found myself "downtown" with nearly two hours to kill before my shift. No point in heading back to my quarters...so why not wander over to Starboard Stores & Cargo and see if there were any interesting tales making the rounds. If we did have optimists shipping themselves as cargo, S&C might have an inkling. You can travel in a pressure-tight cargo container; even back on Earth, it happens more often than you'd think. Strictly against regulations, ridiculously dangerous and uncomfortable to boot, but people do it.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Day, Part 2

I spent the first half of that fateful day struggling with paperwork and the second half in the 'Drive Room at the far end of the ship; we'd managed to get the #2 power amplifier tamed but #3 had been steadily losing output over the past month and was now below the 80% level, something that was sure to be an issue on the Inspection. ("Inadequate safety margin," and never you mind that one power amplifier alone can form and control the 'Drive bubble, though I admit things might get a little crunchy out at the extreme width of the hull).

That meant I missed the first official announcement, which contained nothing rumor hadn't already covered, and the first hint from the medical subcontractor (one tiny "hospital" and two clinics, Central, Port and Starboard respectively. You might remember my experiences with the slow-moving staff at Portside Med. when I got tapped for a random alcohol test[1]) that the unusual death might be even more so. The first clue I had was my phone ringin' at Much-Too-Early-Ayem. I slapped the button in the dark and muttered, "Association for the Prevention of Sci-ence," picking up intelligibility along the way.

"What? Bobbi, it's Mike."

"Sorry. Um, Mike?" (Still not quite awake).

"Sheriff Mike."

Now I was awake! Sat up in my bunk, still in the dark, "Uh-oh. Look, if that idiot in E&PP is still freaked out about the shooting range—-"[2]

"Not that! No, look, what do you know about the body Greggo found?"

"About that much. Why? ...Unh, you think I...?

"No. Geez. Listen, I need your help with this. 'Drive radiation is fatal, right?"

Ohcrap. "Eventually. It'd take one helluva— You think that's what killed her?"

"That's what doc Poole and I are tryin' to find out. Your boss said to ask you. How soon can you be at my office?"

Thanks, Chief. "About—" I ran a hand through my hair, tangled "—Can I have an hour?"

"Not really. Need you soon as you can."

My quarters are about halfway between the Tech Core and the 'Drive Room and a bit to Port; it's a fifteen-minute trip if you take time to grab coffee and a roll on the way. I didn't; twenty minutes after hanging up, I was in Mike's office, wondering if there was a coffeepot close by. I didn't wonder for long; Doc Poole called up some images on Mike's computer and swivelled the monitor toward me.

"Have a look."

I wished I hadn't. The first picture was just head and shoulders and her face looked...cooked. The display cycled through several more views. "Doc!"

"That's 'Drive-field exposure, isn't it?"

"If she didn't jeep the interlocks on a walk-in microwave oven, that's the only other thing I know that'd do it. But Doc, surely you've seen this before?"

"Never this bad — and that sailor lived."

Doc's another Space Force "legacy," but the good kind — he's seen just about everything.

1. We have a "no-martini lunch" rule. Also not for breakfast. Off-duty, if you wanna get wasted, have at it.

2. Another story to be told. The Lupine being ex-Space Force, of course there is a range. It took a lot of careful work to convince the Starship Company to open it up to anyone other than Mike's staff and some crewmembers are still wigged out to have learned there are g-u-n-s aboard, let alone that not all of 'em are in the hands of Security.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I Am Not Shooting

...Not shooting very much any more and it bothers me. I've been hitting the weekends dead tired, nearly broke, in need of laundry and, for the last couple of months, not feelin' too good. But those are excuses. As is the extreme crowdedness of the local indoor range, though that would not bother me so much were it not for the occasional nitwit who behaves in a more casual manner than suits me. (It's a well-enforced cold range and they will eject offenders. Still, I have seen things that pushed even my extreme shyness towards yellin').

Nope, I dunno what it is but the struggle to find time is just not worth the payoff right now. I shoot well enough to defend myself and I'll never shoot well enough to compete seriously (haven't got the eyesight), so why bother? --Maybe I'll have a different opinion when the Eagle Creek outdoor range is open. Hope so.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ol' Yeller....Plastic

Okay, so you've got a vintage computer or whatever and the case has gone all yellow-brown? Thought you were doomed, 'cos, hey, the plastic is deteriorating?

Maybe not. The "browns with age" thing is a chemical reaction, all right, from fire-retardant chemicals in the plastic (likely containing bromine, if I understand what I've read so far) and the effect can be reversed! Not totally, but it'll take an old smoker's-lung computer case a long ways back towards the original hue. Have a look here (retrocomputer hobbyist BBS).

Dabba Oxy-Clean, bitta 12% hydrogen peroxide, UV light, good ventilation, use eye protection, do not ingest mixture, keep away from kids, pets and Leftists, yadda-yadda. I have not tried this, just sharin' what stumbled across.

It's entirely possible this trick may have other applications. Experiment at your own risk.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Another Day, Part 1

Of course it was Greggo that found her. Even though he missed the day Emily got stuck outside thanks to his pressure suit failing the checkout, he put in more vacuum time than anyone else on the E&PP gang. And he was harder on his gear than any ten other guys -- but he got results.

Still, it was the kind of thing nobody expects: a dead body on the hull. There's no procedure for it.

Rumor spread across the Lupine at the usual speed. It took longer to reach me because I was fretting over our upcoming Triennial Inspection, not at all fun despite being a little less than a make or break matter (not to mention both annual and random) than they were prior to the Arrangement. These days, a retired Space Force engineering officer comes about and spends a week going over the 'Drive, control systems and related widgetry, while his equally-retired counterparts check out Power and Environment & Physical Plant; at the conclusion of it, we get a checklist and whatever's not up to spec must be put right. In the bad old days, right after privatization, there would have been fines and Official Reprimands and worse for any deviation; and they tell me it was even rougher when Space Force ran the whole shootin' match. Still, I had checklists of my own, a long list of we'll-clean-it-up-laters to put right and a deadline thirty days earlier than I had thought. So I was just the least busy and fixing to become more so.

News of the appalling find derailed that train of thought for me but as the Chief pointed out, it was not Engineering's problem. This, as it turned out, was wishful thinking; but neither of us knew it at the time.



Thomas the elderly cat has to go back to the vet, his regular vet this time -- possible thyroid issue, plus he's got some dental issues. 0800 tomorrow. Poor old guy.

I have been just plain covered up in work; this week was supposed to be a vacation but I moved it to accommodate some projects and then another immovable event got stuck in the week I moved it to -- right on the first day of the next Indy 1500 gun show, no less. And I'm runnin' out of spare weeks, as my vacation "year" runs from June of one year through April of the next (time off in May? In Indianapolis? In my line of work? Uh, no).

So between that and this, I've not had much time to blog. I'm headed for bed ASAP this evening, though my Muse is urging otherwise.

"Hippie Kryptonite"

From Damon Knight. (Well worth reading).

Tamara's version.

That is all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Can't Fight Here, This Is The War Room

Except it isn't and you can. Huge big dust-up over t'ArfCom, mostly Shooting USA host and producer Jim Scoutten on one side (and Caleb!) and several familiar, friendly faces on the other. Plus Say Uncle bein' moderate.

...And they're all right. For the forums each of them control.

The basic issue here is one of personal taste. I don't see where anyone involved is suggesting persons holding different notions -- or their hobbies -- ought to be thrown to the wolves, a la Zumbo. One guy thinks one thing, another thinks something else -- and they each proceed to go act on their own ideas, without trying to stop one another.

There aren't any villains here. I usually watch "Gun Night" on the Outdoor Life Channel and I've noticed Shooting USA tries very hard to be family-friendly and non-scary. Other shooting programs, competing for the same eyeballs and advertisers, take different approaches. Come back in ten years and I'll tell you which one did a better job of it.

There are a lot of us. Most gunnies do some sort of outreach. Some have a longer reach than others -- and we all make our own editorial decisions.

We're not a hive mind. Isn't that the point? And while disagreement is a normal part of life, don't we have better fights to pick than with one another?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

UPS Rules:

1. The UPS that cannot fail dead, will.

2. When you complain to the Power gang about their UPS failing your well-behaved three-phase load, rest assured that when power comes back up, you will discover 75% of your load is on one phase and the other 25% split between the other two.
2.1. The Power boys will be barely able to restrain their snickers when pointing this out.

3. There will be a spare UPS they never told anyone about, tucked in an obscure corner.

4. It will be all charged up, in Bypass and ready to go online...except two phases are flipped between input and output, so if the make-before-break Bypass switch were to get switched, there would be a brief flash and puff of smoke.
4.1 Your guys will be barely able to restrain their snickers when pointing this out.

5. "Ready to go online," even after you restack all the loads so the phases can be swapped, actually means "about two hours' downtime."
5.1 Power will not have told the brass this sad and awkward truth.
5.2 You will have to.
5.3 They won't like it.
5.4 By then it will be too late.
5.5 And it will take even longer than you told them it would.

Yayy, hooray! Good newses for all! We have a new UPS online and all the loads are balanced between the phases on all the UPSes, or at least close enough to keep them from acting up. (If I keep smiling and talking fast, maybe the Chief won't point out it took three days and some graveyard-shift overtime to get back to where we were already supposed to have been).

Oh, the glamor and fame and red-blooded adventure to be found travelling between the stars! Of all the fictional prophets of the Space Age, George O. Smith* turns out to have got it right -- and I think he might've had some inside info.
* I'm sorry to see most of the Web bios barely mention his "day job:" he was a EE, one of the men who made the WW II Radio Proximity Fuze work: it amounts to a tiny, vacuum-tube radar set, loaded in an AA shell and shot from a gun! His fiction is grand fun; if you like my reports from the Engineering Department of the USAS Lupine, you'll enjoy visiting his cast of characters.


UPS: Either "Unlikely to be interrupted Power Supply" or "Unprovably interrupted Power Supply." It depends on what just happened and who saw it.

Three-Phase Power: AC with three "hot" leads and one neutral. The AC waveform on each hot lead is 120 degrees out of phase from the other two and if the load on each one is of identical impedance, the neutral current is zero. For complex reasons having to do with the way toast falls butter-side down, this never happens. We like three-phase power 'cos it makes electric motors happier. Also the kids dig it. Or not.

Restacking The Loads
: Rearranging the connection of loads to the circuit breakers in a panelboard ("fusebox") in such wise as to try to get zero neutral current, see above. Close counts, especially since it is the best you can ever do.

My Career
: Spent doing things so obscure it requires a glossary just to complain. I should have T-shirts with footnotes on them.

Monday, March 09, 2009

How To Be Wrong On The Internet

Never, ever use [insert search engine name here]* before you write:

"And can you picture the gentlemanly and always polite Ronald Reagan, endorsing a radio hate-jock slob[Rush Limbaugh...]?" [Frank Schaeffer, Open Letter to the Republican Traitors, HuffPo for Sunday, 8 March 2009]

Yes, Frank, I can -- because he did:
"Dear Rush, Thanks for all you're doing to promote Republican and conservative principles...Sincerely, Ron"
— A letter from former President Ronald Regan, reprinted in The National Review, Sept. 6, 1993

And I'd like to thank those eeeeevil far-Right hate-mongers at Time and CNN for having preserved the quote for me to use.

Frank, lad, it's all the same with me if you express, emote and whine away on whatever soapbox you can find -- but pleeeeeeze do your homework. You're makin' the human race look bad. I'm not a fan of Rush -- I don't find his schtick all that amusing -- and even I knew you were blowing smoke.
* As a loyal Blogger customer, I, of course, use Google.


Today: how about an Objectivist superhero? Bam! Zowie!

The Weekend: Scroll down for Little-Known History, sad truths, Indy's PR fail, and BlogMeet info!

Upcoming: I Balance My Check Book (Oh, the drama! Oh, the suspense! Oh, gotta five 'til payday?) and the first installment of a new arc of "I Work On A Starship."

And it is all right here. Except for the checkbook part.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

When Snakes Start Smokin'

Why didn't anyone ever mention to me Brazil had troops fighting in WW II? The full list of Allies is pretty impressive but some of 'em just stood and cheered and offered basing facilities. Brazil, on the other hand, got in the fight despite delays so long that folks started to mock 'em using a colloquial expression, "Snakes will take up smoking before our guys are in the war." ...Which, of course, resulted in the BEF adopting the smoking snake as their emblem, followed by the meaning of the phrase turning right around once they'd got over to Europe and shown what they could do. Real life, still way better than the movies.

Illinois Unpossibility

The BBC tells me a pastor was shot at a church in Illinois. Silly Brits; we know that can't happen, since it's illegal to carry a loaded weapon in IL. Besides, they have FOID cards and won't even sell ammunition to someone without one, just like the Bradyites and IANSA want.

Funny, when something like this was about to happen in a state less hostile to self-defense, it got nipped in the bud. It doesn't always happen that way, but the law in Chicago-dominated Illinois meant there no chance at all when evil came a-calling.

Legal carry: if it saves even one life, isn't it worth it? In IL and WI, I guess not. Nor in much of CA, all of HI or several other "may-issue" States. Killer-friendly States.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


I've been a bit ill this morning. Stopped by the city's website ('cos I wanted to learn the rules about shooting BB guns in one's own back yard -- good luck findin' that!) and got iller.

Who's the genius who set up this and decided to put it in this category? I'm pretty sure you don't have to be male or have African ancestors to resent being lumped in with dog packs, fires, injuries and crime. (Weights and Measure, okay, they're cool. Cool-ish)

Yes, I've seen the stats, and folks can argue over the cause all day long; and I'd be willing to bet the City's intent was well-meaning. It's still clumsy and creepy. Srsly, WTF? DPS?

Friday, March 06, 2009

March BlogMeet!

Okay, now I'm feelin' it!

(You would not believe the terms and conditions on copyright-free photographs of flowers! Well, I fixed that).


Still not feelin' it. Sorry.

Spring? Spring?

...They say it'll be warmer this weekend; might even have some sunshine. About time! That's one of the things that's bugging me -- I come home in the dark every night with a mental list of things to do and it's a rare day I get even one of them accomplished.

Feels like I get about fifteen minutes of sun in the morning and spend the rest of the time in the Land of Always-Night.*

Spring is (at least in theory!) on the horizon and eventually, the time change. Might see a little more light. That'd be good.
* Apologies to Lester Dent (and W. Ryerson Johnson), writing as Kenneth Robeson. --And holy cow! Dent wrote stories about airship pirates! I'm feeling better already.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Some days are Way Too Long. Yet I don't get as much accomplished as I want to.

Image Still Trumps Reality

...On the political Left in United States of America, form whups substance and clouds are castles in the air. Doubt it? Who's in their sights these days? RNC Chairman Micheal Steele, Rs in the House and Senate? --No; just ask Rahm Emmanuel, who has decreed Rush Limbaugh to be the real head of the GOP.

...And just to make it look even more real, other Lefties are keepin' a close eye on that scary Rush-dood, 'cos you know, he does all his eeeevil plotting "hidden" there on the radio, coast-to-coast live and loud, free for the price of tuning in....

Sheesh. Hello? Hellooo? He's an entertainer. It's a radio show.

They're never gonna figure out how the rabbit was in that hat. And they're not fooling anyone but themselves. If you've got the might and weight of the Executive Branch behind you, it's easy and fun to go after a radio host. Takin' on a real party, even one as low in the polls as the Republicans supposedly are, that'd be just dull, boring work -- lotsa steak but no sizzle. Besides, they play for keepsies.

(Edit: since no one else has pointed it out, I'll add that the transitional Right is hardly immune to "form-over-substance-itis, either;" it's just this latest tizzy reminds me of nothing so much as islamonitwits condemning Mickey Mouse as a symbol of Western wickecness. Cartoon character, radio host -- what, do the self-panickers of this world fear being entertained to death?)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


Seriously. Foo! I have worked with phantasmajector-based[1] stardrive finals for what, fifteen years now? Just about. And the blame widgets still act up in ways that defy all logic and reason.

The most-needed part I didn't have yesterday -- an ultrahigh voltage wiring harness that tends to burn out, and shame on me for not realizing I'd used the last ready spare a month ago -- showed up this morning while I was showering. Handsome Dave is on the Earlybird rotation for the middle watch[2] and called me in my quarters. Just as well, I was about done anyway. Wrapped up in a towel, leaned out the washroom door, and punched the Sound Only button, leaving the camera, thank you, off:

"Please Leave A Message After The Tone."

"You don't fool me with that, Bobbi."

"Aw, rats! --C. Jay hung up and redialed when I did it to him."

"Ha! HV umbilical's here; the Chief wants me to check out the controls for the hull cam at the Drive mast anyway, so I'll run this up myself and lend a hand with the B final, too."

"I'm on at 10:00, right?"

"Yepper. Seeya then!"

My quarters are about halfway between the control area with the Bridge, Drive Control, our Shop, etc. (it's centered on the five-mile width of the USAS Lupine and two miles in from the leading edge) and the Drive Room, eight miles back at the tapered trailing edge. The central maintenance tunnel our (and other departments) goofy "golf carts" run inside of isn't too easy to get to, though -- nearest accesses my keys will open are near the ends. So I was gonna hafta gulp breakfast quick and hit the slidewalk, and even then, he'd be there ahead of me.

* * * *

Which he was, sitting in the workroom that is the front compartment of the Drive Room with the unshipped camera control box open on the bench and holding a highly-prohibited cigarette cupped in one hand, near the solder-vapor inhaler. He looked up in mild guilt, but as he doesn't smoke much and is careful about it, I ignore it; there are designated smoking places on the ship but none near the Drive Room.

"What's the deal with the tube?"

"Y'got me, Dave. Ran for a couple hours yesterday, then shut down right as I was leaving -- on OT! -- and kept on crowbarring no matter what I tried. I want to bring it up with no drive, see if we've got a shorted tube or what."

No sooner said than done -- I went back to the stardrive final amplifiers, killed the driver amplifier breakers for B, and started the warm-up cycle, to STANDBY from BACK HEAT. Five minutes, so I went back to the work room and had a look at the well-worn and much-repaired control box while it warmed up and Dave finished his illicit luxury.

"Up here, this thing goes nuts when the control modem is running," Dave said. "Took it down to Engineering and it worked fine on the bench. Not a glitch."

"Sounds like the Drive field is gettin' into it. --Oops, time."

We went back, I stared at the meters stuffed behind plex in the High Voltage section and he hit the switch. Bam! came up, shut right down. The meters all jumped and dropped back to zero.

"Try 'er again."


"Okay, OFF. Ten minutes to spool down, then we'll open up the grid cavity, yank the cathode-end connections, and see if it will come up with the tube disconnected. If so, dead tube. Expensive."

Dave nodded, "If not, shorted HV harness. PITA to change."


Back to fiddling with the camera controls. Sure enough, hooked up, the thing runs amok, random control outputs. Good thing it's not connected to the camera!

I heard the high-pressure blower howl down the scale, and headed back to open up the grid cavity (five bolts. 36, 000 Volts. Will I use a grounding hook? Oh, yeah). It takes one small rotary switch that should shut the rig off even if I missed a step, one king-sized switch that shorts the HV (and you get to watch the contacts close though a plastic window -- I dread the day it's hot-switched), three circuit breakers and one lock-out bar before you can think about opening it up. It's anticlimactic from there, two small plugs and two fat ones to unplug, stand on tiptoe to reach in and stuff them down away from the connectors, then close it back up, open up the logic-and-control chassis and flip the TEST 1 switch to defeat the "tube okay" safety, flip the three breakers and two rotary switches, hit the STANDBY button and then it's five minutes to kill before the rig is in READY.

Back in the workroom, Dave had the modem subchassis pried loose and was looking at the soldered connections -- a through-hole PC board, how quaint -- with a bright light and magnifying glasses. "Does this look right to you?"

I leaned close and squinted, "Not so much. Kind of a cold joint there, and these look like the lead didn't wet, or it broke free--"

"Could that be it?"

"Worth a try, lets fire up the iron." I looked at my watch. "Tube's ready!"

Went back to the rig, hit the switch, and the high voltage came right up. Held. Thirty seconds. Shut it down and we looked at each other. If HV will come up with the tube disconnected but acts like there's a short when the tube is connected--

"That's not good."

"Could be costly. Let's try again." This time we ran it for a minute. Happy as a clam.

"Fine, " I said, "Darned if I'm gonna tell the Chief we need a new tube without triple-checking. This one's not five, no, six months old. When it's cycled back down, I'll hook the tube up and we'll try it again."

...And, this being a mildly perverse universe, when we did, it came up and ran. Parameters were a bit off, so I tweaked for the proper "idling" current and we applied drive. Rig came up. Produced power output. Ran for ten minutes, then BAM! Overload. Off.

Reset it and it shut right back down. But the heater voltage had crept way up. Reduced that to normal, a little less, turned the rig on, and it held; went out, worked on the camera control for half an hour and BAM! The B stardive final. Off.

We spent the next four hours, getting longer and longer runtimes, the settings getting farther and farther away from optimum, until it stayed up for two hours...three... and as far as I know, it's running now. Operating way, way off from what it should be, the heater voltage low, the grid bias cranked up, running too much grid current and too little collector current -- but running. By everything I know, it's Seriously Wrong, but it is running. And after eight and a half hours, that's good enough for me.


The camera controller? Resoldered nearly everything and it stopped being flaky. I still have my doubts, but we're scheduling in some riggers (in use, it's a mounted bit too far out on too awkward a structure -- it takes specialists to deal with that) and we'll see what it does out near the Drive field projectors. Hopes are high!

* * * *
Emily, by the way, was not left out on the hull. While her suit mic -- both of them! -- didn't work, she could hear all right. The EVA tech did remember (eventually) to tell her the short Jump was off and her E&PP boss scrubbed the task she was on -- second shift finished up the solenoid valves in the graywater main with a proper crew of two, with working comms gear, well ahead of the reskedded Jump. I may write about that Jump in greater detail but let's just say it did involve some vector changes. Ugly ones. And guess whose helmet is red-tagged in the To Be Fixed cabinet in the Engineering Shop? Stencil says EMILY L. H'mmmmm.
1. Actually, L3's CEA is an oil-interphase phantasmatron, but close enough. It does the same thing at higher efficiency and, as you might notice, has some non-secret uses as well. Still, they are very careful to avoid using the right name for the thing.

2. It's complicated: Engineering (Maint., not Ops), Stores & Cargo, E&PP, and pretty much everyone who doesn't stand watch works a three-shift sked, 8 on, 16 off; most departments with critical functions stagger start times so there's constant overlap. Contrarily, operating positions stand traditional (merchant marine) watches: four on, eight off. Of course between Jumps, the Bridge crew can take it awfully easy; a lot of those chairs aren't occupied. Power Room, Enviro (the "E" of E &PP) and Drive Control always -- always! -- have somebody on watch in their individual Worry Seats, which are away from the bridge and from each other as a hedge against disaster. I've seen guys go as long as twelve hours on Drive Control, but only in emergencies. One end result of all schedule fiddle-faddling is, you interact with different people all the time. Even though the total population of the ship is pretty large -- subcontractors, merchants, passengers, etc. add up to small-town sized -- the workin' crew is around 400, few enough you can get a little sick of one another if you spent most your time with the third of 'em on your shift.


The only light in the Engineering Shop came from the corridor hatch and the Chief's cubicle. We were variously arrayed on chairs and workbenches, facing the big monitor. On the screen, flames shot from the windows and doors of a large industrial building. As the camera zoomed out, a column of smoke could be seen streaming though the partially-collapsed roof. In the foreground, a figure in overcoat, boots, gloves and helmet reached for a fence, touched it, convulsed, and fell. The camera panned over to center on him, revealing heavy wires -- power lines -- drooped ungracefully down, draped over the fence and off to the burning building. As the title appeared, LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP, narration started up:

"That firefighter survived, but you may not. Look Before You Leap! Industrial Safety Is No Accident!"

In front of me, Jonny Zed snorted and whispered to the guy next to him -- C. Jay -- "What's that got t'do with us?"

Jay shook his head, meaning pipe down, Jon, but to no avail. Jon kept on, "We haven't got any overhead power, that wouldn't work. We just need to get the power we need when we need to get the power we need."

Jay stifled a laugh, turned and gave me a help me look over his shoulder. I leaned in and hissed, "Jon, the Chief's givin' us the eye. Aren't we in trouble enough already?"

Indeed we were. The UPS debacle had had repercussions throughout Power and Engineering and while the official word was Disaster Narrowly Averted, a Lead Tech in Power had been busted down to plain ol' Electrician and a couple of them had been dropped back to Probationary Apprentice -- and everybody but everybody was gettin' another round of How Not To Screw Up And Kill Us All training. --Say what you will, it might be a little hokey but it beats having to walk home.

"Walking home" was looking a little more likely than usual; our hastily-refigured short hop had gone off without a hitch, though palms were sweatier than usual throughout, but when we'd set the stardrive finals back to idling, one had crashed. I spent the better part of an entire shift messing with it, got it working -- and then it shut down hard just as I was fixing to leave the Drive Room and would not come back up. I'd had some of the parts I most suspected on hand and ordered the rest from Stores & Cargo, but that was gonna take a day. The Chief was Not Happy at this and not all reluctant to show it. I was a bit unhappy myself. Stardrive finals are fiddly things and I was hoping the big phantasmajector tube -- the newest of the three! -- had not given up the ghost.

But for now, the second in a series of required meetings. LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP! It was a pretty interesting video. The first two or three times. I sure hope S&C gets those parts here early.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

March BlogMeet

Let's pick a date for the BlogMeet. And a place -- I like the Brew Pub but I'm open to suggestions! Remember: foment discontent politely.

I Am Not "Nice"

Simply because I am not especially blunt and don't swear much, do not assume I am "nice" or that I will sit through damfoolery on your part with a smile, give you a pat on the head, a plate of cookies and a glass of milk when you are done and take your half-baked, half-witted notions seriously.

If you are horrified by the notion of private individuals owning, carrying and/or shooting guns, don't bother commenting here. If you think a repressive, one-party government with full control of the media is every bit as free and open as one with Constitutional limits to government protecting freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and the right to keep and bear arms (among others), I am not interested in your opinions -- they are wrong, not just ill-informed, and you're a child at best, an idiot or an agent of totalitarianism at worst.

The Federal government of these here overly-United States has many faults and flaws; I'm not real happy with some of the things it has done in the past and I'm not pleased about where it appears to be headed. Bad as it is, it is still better than any other, in part because of the limitations upon it and because it includes mechanisms for peaceful change -- even when the change is as drastic as the recent Presidential election.

If you think Americans are scary, violent people, if our abrupt manners and exuberance offends you, avoid us. Don't come whining to me about it, because I am one of 'em.

Don't hector me about the horrawfulness of me carryin' a gun. I am armed. I will be armed. I will ignore your whining about it. While encountering people who are in the act of attempting to harm me is a low-probability event, it has happened to me twice in the past when I wasn't armed and it was bad. If there's ever a third time, I will have an option other than fleet feet and a bag of groceries to throw. (How long did it take the cops to arrive after shots were fired at me in the parking lot of a fully-occupied apartment building? Twenty minutes. That's a lot of bleeding -- I'm sure glad the criminal was a lousy shot).

It's a free country -- and you can get a free blog of your very own to express your hoplophobia, sing the praises of single-party systems, whinge about those with more than yourself or write of your deep and abiding lust for the capybara at blogger.com, among others. This is my blog and if you come here with that stuff, I'll argue with you, make fun of your ignorant prejudices, and if you persist, I'll tell you to leave. I may even ban you. (I've even banned people with whom I am largely in agreement 'cos they wanted to have big fights in my comments sections instead of on their own blogs -- this is my flower bed and I'll weed it as I see fit).


Monday, March 02, 2009

I Am So Glad Cats Don't Have Thumbs

...Even non-opposable ones. Consider clever critters who do; consider the short life and illustrious career of escapologist, pacifist and ringleader Ken Allen. The orangutan.

Darned pity those guys don't have language -- I'm quite sure he was tryin' to tell the zoo something. Of course, the original people in those parts (edit: that would Borneo and Sumatra) claimed -- and may yet -- that orangs speak well enough but won't do it around people, lest they be rounded up and put to work. A wise judgment, were it true.

Conversations At Roseholme

RX: "Tommy! Stop! Oatmeal is not for cats! And neither is my coffee!"
Tam: [snickering]
Tomcat: purrs and smooths on keyboard, covering RGB to MKO.

Sudden scuffle from the register, where Slinky the little old lady cat has been dozing: the furnace started and the gust of warm air startled her.
Tam: "I think it blew up her skirt!"


Tam: "You should write your post of the morning."
RX: "Yeah, if I had anything to post."

There's always something. H'm, just remembered I have a Blood Orange on the counter and cinnamon rolls warming in the oven; much as I'd like to write more, duty does call! But you're not left in the lurch: the latest installment of I Work On A Starship is below.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

A Short Hop, Part 5

(Continued from Part Four)

Fine, I figured, that's that. I'd've bet one of the big ol' Lyndonfins all the thrills were over, Em will spin the big worm-drive reinforced butterfly valve shut, ending (or at least greatly reducing) the risk of surging graywater negatively affecting stability,* not to mention fountaining up in half the showers and sinks. Plenty of time to get back to the Engineering Shop and join the guys in making mock of the whole mess. I stood up--

--And saw the glow from various displays that usually shines into the corridor from the Bridge go out and every widget in earshot went "bhwoooooo" as the cooling fans in 'em spooled down. In the utterly howling silence that followed, Russ, who never swears, said, "Oh. Sheeet. Bust it -- this Jump is not happening." Followed, of course, by the general hubbub that breaks out when things go awry. I could still hear Russ, asking Navs to update the scenarios for the next window, and then his voice both directly and via intercom and paging speakers, "Engineering, Power: techs to the Bridge."

The Bridge looks like a cross between Mission Control and a TV control room, dominated by a wall of displays, two of them huge ones, one usually showing the ship's present position overlaid with the postions and trajectories of every known, detected and predicted body (ship, planet, blob of stuff, etc.) in range and the other likewise for the (intended) point of arrival after jump. A couple of Imaging techs on the bridge, backed up by a lot of computer, sensor gear and support staff keep them up to date. The same displays show other data as-needed and are flanked by a couple of dozen smaller ones. Each position has its own array of specific displays and controls, with the Pilot's area front and center, flanked by a couple of Navs types; other positions are behind that row on three higher levels.

There's a Power Room tech on the bridge, two rows back. He can see what each of the three fusion/MHD reactors are doing and the realtime load distribution. Port and Starboard reactors back one another up and the main propulsion, control and environment systems run from Central, with Port and Starboard as their backups. Major systems like, oh, the Bridge have dual power supplies on everything, running from separate UPSes to float 'em through switching from Central to P or S: there is No Way any single point of failure can kill the bridge systems. Except one just had.

...That's what I was thinking, only more like ThereIsNoWayThisCan'tHappen-NormalLightsStillOnWTF? while running towards the electrical room and UPS compartments aft of the Bridge. Fast as I was, Conan the Objectivist had beat me to it and had the hatch open to the #2 UPS, his hand on the emergency bypass switch.

"Dead! And it didn't bypass itself! I'm flippin' the bypass now--" Followed by a ker-chunk! The output metering came up and current looked awfully high, right at the rated limit.

Guy from the power gang stuck his head in the hatch -- "Hey! Okay, it's you guys, but dog-gone it, power's our worry."

Yeah, yeah, like I'm not an adequate jackleg electrician. I shot back, "It was just about everybody's worry, Slim, the Bridge went dark a couple minutes before Jump."

"I noticed. You know we had a rebuild scheduled for the Number One UPS?"

"Guess not."

Conan chimed in, "Yeah, saw it on the ops orders -- for day after tomorrow."

"Okay, unh, look, we've got some new guys on this--" (I'm not surprised, it's a crummy job) "--and they decided to get a head start; looks like graveyard shift last night, they moved all the bridge loads over to Number Two--"

I gave him a Look, "Leaving the entire effing Bridge on a single UPS? Which has crashed, but hard?"

"Er, yeah. We gotta change this back. Has Engineering added anything new in the rack bays and not told us? That UPS should have held, even by itself. An' can you help here? I'm not askin' you guys to cover anything up but the way I figure it, the sooner we get power back to normal, the better it's gonna be for everybody."

Ain't that the truth! I spent another hour helping, as more and more of the Power gang showed up and took over, then went back past the Bridge -- dark and mostly quiet, though Russ was still at the pilot's console, intent on displays, no doubt for the next Jump window -- and into the rack bays, to see what needed rebooting, recalibrated, reset or solidly thumped to get everything ready for our next chance. Worked my way into Drive Control, tech on duty waved (Hi, Curtis) , and Jonny Zedd looked up from where we was nodding over the Insystem Drive panels, "Hey Bobbi, that Lootenant Luna, he was really a-jumpin' at the bit about missin' our window!"

Jumping at the bit. Yeah. Right. "You don't say, Jonny. You don't say."

It's always something but some days, it's more things than seems probable and way more than you'd ever want. Buck Rogers had it easier!
* As in, "The ship may lurch around and emerge into rational space some significant distance away from the intended location." Which could suck. Possibly hugely.

Breakfast Menu

Half an Ugli fruit (sweeter than grapefruit but just as big and it's scary!).

Bacon (peppered) and fried-egg sandwich on dark rye with Muenster cheese, thinly-sliced radish and Cholula hot sauce: O.M.G. (Srsly, you gotta try it).

Amish-made cinnamon rolls, served warm.

Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee with cream and turbinado sugar.

Maybe it's a little (a little?) carbs-and-sugar heavy (hey, ask me about my cholesterol levels, stunningly low) but oh-so-good!

Cat Update

Yeah, it's cat-blogging. So sue me.

...I took Tommy to the vet yesterday. They confirmed his troubles and proposed a multi-day stay with a commeasurate price tag. I asked if perhaps we could not start out smaller and less annoying for the cat* and they came back with 24 hours "and we'll see."

It's twenty hours now and he's been IV hydrated and otherwise looked after and the vet tells me things have, in fact, run their due course successfully. Planning to pick him up this afternoon along with a new prescription that may help him be a regular sort of cat.

Now I need to find a groomer or some good advice. After all he's been through, he really needs a bath and a comb-out.
* If you think three days of enemas would be fun, please go away. Now. Really.