Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Frank W. James On Modern Political "Choices"

I'm slowly coming to the conclusion after listening to all the balderdash out of Washington DC and elsewhere that I'm neither a liberal or a conservative in terms of my political slant. I would opt for the term Libertarian, but I'm not sure that is safe either.

So far I haven't seen anything that warms the cockles of my heart in terms of present political philosophy from anyone on either spectrum.

Amen, brother, amen!

RTWT. And politicians? When you've lost guys like Mr. James, you've lost this country's heart.

Count What?

Britain's Queen Elizabeth is preparing to have her swans counted.

Please oh please, let this be one of those charmingly British turns of speech for some common and unpleasant task, oh, pleeese. "'Avin' me swans counted," she said, and everyone remembered how chilly the instruments always were, not to mention the noise....

Aw, rats, no. They're counting. Actually counting. Swans. Unh, okay. I try not to judge. Even if the official name for this process is "Swan Upping," painful as that sounds.


Holyhowlingheck, the Brits have got a Swan Warden! Do we even have, like, a cygnet Czar? Bet not.

UPDATE: Dustbury posted this and I am shamelessly stealing it. I howled.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Say Again?

Your WTF? moment of the day:
In a meeting with journalists last week, [Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel proposed that health-care legislation could be bipartisan without Republican votes.

In related news, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia. Or:
The Obama administration is rushing towards a unilateral plan to imprison people without trial, according to a huge, new joint article from the Washington Post and ProPublica. The proposal would completely cut Congress out of the process by using an executive order to essentially bring Gitmo stateside.
Happy times. They tolja you'd miss Joe Stalin after he was gone.
The first linked article is more blather about the so-called "public option," which fans of nationalizing health care see as a gateway drug to single-payer. Don't be fooled-- it is the first step in a massive reduction in health care available to productive citizens, cloaked in a flimsy veil of "fairness." Why is it fair that you or I should work to pay for medical care for bums and addicts? Congress is ginnin' up to roll right over those of us who work for a living and it's time we stood up and told 'em STOP!


Update: Check out the comments! Reader James E. Griffin -- clearly a lost son of Wile E. Coyote -- offers up a detailed plan to keep the good time rollin'. I was giggling before I 'd read a quarter of it. I can see the Acme-brand gadgets already!

It's not quite Schadenfreude when a friend rings you up to announce, "I've got a batch of croissants rising and my oven's conked out," for all that it is a delight that comes from another person's bad luck.

Fresh from the oven -- I'd never had but cold ones -- croissants combine the best features of fresh-baked bread and flaky pastry, hot and soft and flavorful. She and Tam and I ate a couple apiece before any of us remembered our friend had brought a delicious salad, too. A mild rosé on the side and you could not ask for a better meal!

The repairman's scheduled for today or tomorrow to fix our friend's oven. Is it okay to be feeling a little wistful regret at that?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Flag Display

Because some folks -- and they clearly don't know who they are -- stuck Federal flags on their cars after 11 September 2001 and drove around with them flapping in all weather until Old Glory had become a tattered rag, I'm posting this link to Respectful Ways To Display The Flag On The Fourth. It even has some nice, patriotic treats you can set out instead of, oh, candies with U. S. flags on 'em.

Me, I've flown the Gadsden Flag on patriotic holidays for many years now; I didn't like the kind of things politicians and pundits were wrappin' in the Stars and Stripes and since there were more of them than there are of me, I let them take it. But if you are gonna fly the national flag, please do so properly!

Than Kew.

"Chicken Fingers?" Hah!

Remember When Mutated Frogs Were Harbingers Of Environmental DOOOOOM?

Now, maybe not so much. Seems dragonfly nymphs may have a taste for frog's legs (Ah, oui!) -- and just to add to the fun, there's a parasite that infects tadpoles that can cause 'em to grow extras! ...Seems like there'd be some way to achieve homeostasis there but I guess not.

Moral of story: Go. Find. Out. Sure, they hand down some fine tales from on high, but they're wrong a lot, too.

As for how this might apply to other things laid 'pon us by Wiser Heads, like "public option" nationalized health care, the horror that is Cap-and-Trade, or the various and assorts lumps of "Government Stimulus" and related bailouts, I will leave for the reader to decide, with one bit of advice: if a politician says something, it's mostly likely wrong.

In Space, It's Hard To Ignore The Phone

Today should have been a day off. I still haven't got out my nightgown, let alone my quarters, yet I've been working most of the last four hours.

It all goes back to the Power Room gang. Lupine Power & Light, as they are often known -- and they do sell commercial power to the various subcontractors and merchants; even the functions of the ship proper generate a paper trail akin to billing. They have taken our recent string of power issues (UPS crashes, fried service transformers and other sorts of barbecue) very much to heart. Their most recent project has been a huge upgrade to the distribution system from the central fusion/MHD reactor, ripping out the last of the late-50s infrastructure and bringing the whole thing up to modern standards. Yay, hooray and it should have been transparent to the end user, most especially us.

By "should have been," I would be saying not so much. By "us," I mean the Command/Control core, where the Engineering Shop, the rack area, Drive and RF/Reaction Control and Master Control are to be found, where Navs, Imaging and Signals have their primary tech offices and where, one deck up, Officer's Country can be found, all ipanelling, hushed voices, carpeting, incongrous displays and gazillions on the line. The important stuff's all triply-backed up, right?

Right. Except for the few bits that aren't. You install a new thing in an old rack and don't check out where it's powered, could be later on there are tooth marks where you sit down. Or maybe on someone else, whoever else it fails on.

If you get bit, then fake your way out of it and leave the next shift to get burned, you'll learn there are worse things than tooth marks and once the heated wrath of the Chief has singed you to the bone, quiet, gentle Dr. Schmid is waiting, an otherworldy look in his eyes, as noble as Dr. Guillotine. 2/O and the big boss of Navs and Engineering and a man whose time, he refrains from pointing out, is not to be trifled with. What he might say or do, one should never find out firsthand.

...Let me draw a curtain across that scene, for it doesn't -- thank the Fates! -- concern us, not this time. Suffice to say, there was a big ol' glitch on the power and a couple of near-critical items took nasty hits that took 'em down, one of them a trick little Tweed "intelligent controller" that helps keep us from tearin' the place apart with the realspace drives; and here we are, inbound yet, with some fine maneuvering a few days away. So that was A Bad Thing.

What was worse was just patching around it and leaving it for the next guys along with a pile of other, less-critical fubars while making no particular note. By the time my phone started beeping, dayshift was looking lunchwards and the perps were snug abed -- unless the Chief had hold of them by then.

So I've been online, digging up files and notes: workarounds, software to reload and how we ran without it. That last gets us back to Navs some and piloting a whole lot -- looks like at least half the star pilots have eased this contraption into orbit without such invisibly automated help and a quarter of that group date back to before the thing it replaced...which I have located in a Stores & Cargo index and sent for. Might be a bit more zero-G this planetfall than folks have gotten used to.

I've also spent time on the phone with Dr. Schmid, talking through resetting another important item the night-shift guys left about half-right and I've volunteered to just head on down to C&C twice. "Better take what's left of your day off," he said, "It looks like there might not be any more of them for awhile." Ow.

What I'm wondering is, just what the dickens else messed up that the overnight crew had so little time to spend on these things? --And why didn't they start callin' for help when it happened?

I may be adventuring among the distant stars but from where I'm sitting right now, it sometimes bears a stunning likeness to Peoria.

P.S.: And after a morning spent that way and a middlin' nice mid-day spent reading and housecleaning, I'm on the phone again -- seems the Drive Control operator just tried to call up some seldom looked-at telemetry and the whole subsystem crashed. Yum.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Unsolicited Advice

I have owned and used a lot of typewriters. You'd expect that from a retrotechnologist, especially one who spent her early adulthood shopping mainly at garage sales.

For some reason (namely, capricious whim), over the last few weeks I have fiddled with, sometimes bought, cleaned and used many more of the machines and I have found something out.

If you're gonna go spend time off the grid and write your memoirs, especially if you're going to be traveling light, some choices are better than others. Among small machines with conventional keyboards, the names Olivetti, Smith-Corona and Royal may be better-known but Remington's smaller and cheaper "Remette," "Envoy" (2nd type) and similar models like the "Remette Deluxe," "Smith Premier Portable Junior" are the hot ticket. They take much less effort on the keys than other portables of similar size, weigh less, and have a sleek, low profile that takes up minimum space. They appear to be pretty common and the going rate on the big auction site is something near $50 for a decent one.

There was at least one other big typewriter maker that built portables Back When. My three-row Underwood is marginally smaller then the little Remingtons, types well with nearly as light a touch on the keys, is about the same weight or a little more and it is built like a brick necessity (or an Underwood, as happens); but it has that non-standard keyboard. Their four-row portable is sturdy as can be but significantly heavier and examples I have laid hands on show signs of hard use; they were professional machines and most were well-worn when they were put out to pasture.

So if your plans include letters to the Editor from an unheated bunker in the woods -- or a remote tropical island -- my advice is to pick up a little Remington.

...I hear they made some fair guns, too....

Where's The...Sausage?

That's what Ruth Holladay, late of the Indianapolis Star, is asking. 'Cos one of the paper's offshoot magazineothingies ran a nifty story about that infamous messer-up of our gun laws and despoiler of banks, John Dillinger which featured a Fact or Fiction section that included an, oh, gee, how to say it? There's a long-running rumor that a, ahem, certain portion of the infamous outlaw's anatomy is kept in a jar at the Smithsonian (cos that's how they roll). And so on. Go ask Ruth, I'm too busy alternately blushing and snickering!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Want NOW!

ACE Cycle-Car. Oooooo. Their webpage. I swoon.

(Three wheels and noise for this one!)

...Almost as good: '52 MG TC on *Bay.
From another MG ad: "...OF COURSE THE LUCAS WIRING, ALTHOUGH THAT WORKS PRETTY WELL IF KEPT CLEAN." As someone who's owned a couple MGBs, I'd have to agree; it's terribly easy to fall behind on maintenance of these cars and once you -- or a previous owner -- has done so, it operates in #BRITISH SPORTSCAR FAIL mode until put right and that goes at least double for the electrical system. On the other hand, the only issues that ever sidelined mine for long were near-terminal rust and spousal disapproval; they break but they're highly fixable. And an utter treat to drive.

N.B.: If you're looking at an MGB and notice even a little bubbly paint under the doors? Look closer! That sill is the outer part of a box beam, the main front-to-back strength of the car and it likes to rust from the inside out. When it's gone, well.... Not a real good day, that. Can get lots worse if you open both doors at once and have a large passenger.

I'm So Proud

Here's a search you don't often get to be the top result for, not even for a little while (clickee begets embiggening):Top!! Result!1!1!!!one! Ooooo, PH34r M3!

Friday Typeblog

Update: The overly-clever point here -- which Tam and Crucis saw -- is that while the Corona Comet looks rilly rilly good, it's got some issues that make its output very difficult to read. Meanwhile, rattier machines are producing pretty good copy. Looks are nice but results are what counts!
Shot with a camera: the scanner was being stubborn.

Old School Space Cadet

As in 1930s space-cadet-ery. Notice the pencil sharpener and typewriter are both "Comet" and the receiver's a "Sky Buddy." The bug key is a Vibroplex Blue Racer (possibly illegal in Texas) and the headphones on the desk are Trimm "Professionals." There's a real set of "Featherweight" headphones in the box under the shelf and that's a fountain pen on the station logbook -- which is itself a repro of the 1930s ARRL publication!

...Nobody believes me when I claim to commute from 1937, so I thought I'd better provide proof.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


Finally starting to get my basement (radio/small machinery/small woodwork/leatherwork) shop set up. The "wall o' tools" is maybe half done: Interesting note, on the left-hand pegboard, the middle of the three hammers is a small cross-pein hammer of the sort still known in the UK as a "telephone hammer." Just the thing for those late-night calls, h'mm?

The screwdrivers on that same side that run from "gigantic" to "large" are cabinetmaker's screwdrivers, with tips that are thin for their width compared to the usual mechanic's driver.

The Yankee screwdriver at the top is the largest size made (or was, I think Stanley stopped making them last year) and is so large that it is unsafe to store it closed, with the spiral inside the upper tube, because the travel is so far and the spring so powerful that if you happened to be looking at the workin' end and released the latch, it'd go right through your face. Dunno about you but I so do not wanna have to ring up 911 to tell 'em I have stuck a screwdriver into my head by accident. "...And had you been drinking? Had your tinfoil hat slipped?"

At the bottom of the right-hand pegboard is a set of genuine "Spintite" nutdrivers. Not only do they have nice wooden handles and proper hollow shafts, the outside diameter of the driver end is quite small for the size of hex-whatever they fit. It's not that the old steel was that much better but that product liability was less of an issue; you can break them if you apply too much force --but they'll fit tight places where Xcelite's high-quality drivers or even the super-duper Klein ones don't have enough clearance. (If you're buying for yourself, IMO the Klein's are first choice, Xcelite or Vaco second -- and last I knew, you will own one of the latter if you need a full set 'cos there is one size Klein doesn't offer. Unless they've fixed that).

Note that these tools, while generally kinda pretty, are workin' tools. Screwdriver tips are kept properly ground and tools too worn to be functional go in a box to sell to collectors looking for wall-hangers. It's kind of fun to fix an old radio or whatever using pretty much what someone would have used when it was new!

Not seen, the workbench to the right of all this. 'Cos it's still a mess.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

As Rises The Sun

So rises Your Correspondent, though the center of the heat is my knee. Not much pain (and no light, either, which would kinda fret me, some), it's just...toasty.

A big day today, meetin' a factory tech to check out what helper and I did yesterday, an early start. So I'll post something longer, later, and take my cane to work just in case.

It's better day so far!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It Was Typewriter Day

All day today, it was anniversary of the day Christopher Latham Sholes (father of QWERTY) made the crazy idea work.

So of course I worked a looong day, starting with trip to the knee Doc. The Distal Condyle, also known as the upper bearing surface of the outside half of my right knee? "Like a gravel road," the man said, in an X-ray show-and-tell otherwise featuring words like "posterior and anterior cruciate ligaments," "meniscus" and "tibia," to name but a few that stuck. One heck of a fancy MRI, complete with the looming ghosts of the four bolts that remain in my thighbone and voids in cartilage (what's left on that side, not much) and other happy images. Upshot? "We'll start with a cortisone injection in your knee today. You'll know within a week if it works; call us with your results and we'll go from there." Fun, but hey...! "It won't hurt too much today, tomorrow you may want to ice it. Are you on your feet much?"

I was all day today, tomorrow promises to be more of the same and I am fair outta ice.

The rest of the day? Yeech. Started late. Struggled all morning and into the afternoon to get what we needed to do the job at hand, with very little help from the manufacturer; then once we did get the critical software found, downloaded, installed, set up and happy, and took a five-minute break spending time online on some work-related-but-not-to-this-job stuff before commencing the physical part of the task, much later in the day than planned or expected, in walks one of the big bosses. Very nearly zero physical evidence that anything has been acomplished at that point, give or take some hand-hacked network cables and a different rev number hidden in the software.

He's not too happy with me or my helper and based on what he saw, can you blame him? After he'd lit us up and left, we got it done -- on time, too -- but I'm bettin' that won't count any in my favor.

Some days you just can't win; there is a thermodynamics of our lives, too. And that's why no typeblogging on this day of all days.

Tomorrow's better, right? Gonna effin' make it better.

OMG, We're Bombing The Moon

NASA To Crash-Land Small Vehicle On Moon, Nitwits Panicky

NASAWatch reports on LCROSS, (which is gonna stream live video from a Lunar flyby starting 0820 EST today) an unmanned vehicle which will indeed impact the Moon, creating a nice plume of stuff we can analyze (and aren't there some Apollo-eria seismic pickups still running out there, too?) Pretty kewl stuff!

Unless you're... Umm, how to say this nicely? Ah! One of a certain sort of True Believer; then you're sayin' stuff like this:
The NASA moon bombing, a component of the LCROSS mission, may also trigger conflict with known extraterrestrial civilizations on the moon....
Or this:
If the true intent of the LCROSS mission moon bombing is a hostile act by NASA against known extraterrestrial civilizations and settlements on the moon, then NASA and by extension the U.S. government are guilty of aggressive war which is the most serious of war crimes under the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is subject
We're told it is a "two-ton kinetic weapon." Oh, dear Heavens, not the horrors of kinetic energy?!?!!one!

And you thought the aliens were peevish before all this! Just you wait.

Egad. NASAWatch's article includes a promotional clip from an ABC (hey, them?) mini-series that shows how silly some of our fellow Earthlings have become. I laughed out loud a few times, which is sad, 'cos it's supposed to be a dramatic kinda program.

I swan, oftentimes I think the dumbing-down is entirely deliberate. Wake me up when hoi polli wakes up, willya? I'm headin' for the brain-bunker.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Ride Fast and Shoot Straight:
Think about this, though. If those millions of Iranians we've been seeing marching in protest were mostly, or even half-ly, carrying rifles, the revolution would be over by now, and The People would have won.
Too right. RTWT.

A Ride, A Snack...

...Tam walks down the hall, intoning "tactactac." 'Cos I'm typeblogging!Fresh Peaches! (Now if only I could figure out how to make the displayed text image larger).
"Folded" and "unfolded" pix:

A modern cartridge pen and a futuristic Western Electric 300-series desk telephone (direct dial, no less) in the background -- I just can't imagine why people call me old-fashioned!

Typeblogging Facebook Manners

Shermlock takes us back, back to those days that never were, when the young learned online manners the hard way, at the controls of their vacuum-tube computers. ...Ah yes, I remember it as though 'twere only yesterday...in my basement....

When You're Down, You're Easier To Kick

So, you're a used-car dealer, hanging on in a business hit twice over by a bad economy and GM and Chrysler shedding dealers (which has turned some new-car dealers into independent, hungry competitors). Things couldn't get much worse, right?

Wrong. Try buy here, pay here, get held up here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

June BlogMeet: WIN

(Update: Congrats to Og, who caught that the Underwood has only three rows of keys -- it's another one with separate "CAPS" and "FIGS" shift keys, bit of a challenge for the typist. Figs? Tasty!)

There were nineteen or twenty of us (depending on how you count it) BlogMeeting at the Brew Pub, including Breda and Mike and the inimitable Les (late of Discontented Cookie and pointing us at Chicago Appleseed -- y'never expected that from Chicago, didja?)) from Far Forn Lands. Fabulous Prizes in the form of red-white-and-blue pens on lanyards were awarded the first 16 attendees! The event looked kinda like this: In fact, it looked just like that. Of course, I had to type-blog it. (Clicken for biggen, bearing in mind that I do not type so very well). BTW, Marko, the Underwood Portable weighs in at well under ten pounds and they don't ask you to leave the brew Pub when you start clattering away! I have most of the names in there, some a bit scribbly. Red rectangles enclose Caleb and the younger (but not that young!) Soames' typing. (I'll add more names & links asap, promise, but I have got to get to bed before I fall asleep at the keyboard). Here we are: Joanna, Tam, Old Grouch, Shermlock Shomes, Mrs. Shomes and Hagbard Celine (aka Check ID), Shootin' Buddy, Caleb, The Other Wayne, Kerry, Darlene, Kerry's father-in-Law, Martha, Greg, Dawn and child, Mad Saint Jack, Breda and Mike, Les and some chick named Roberta X.

Don't forget, 23 June is Typewriter Day! (U.S. and I think the rest of North America. Europe's is in April, in honor of an Italian parallel inventor).

The "Cup of Turonistan" for travelling the farthest distance was awarded twice -- once to Breda and Mike (a plastic soft-dart gun that looks like a tiny AK-47 -- except there is a a tiny gunner mounted atop it!) and then again to Les (an equally tiny toy gun, something of an "AR-47" or "AK-15" with light-up thingies on it).

Shermlock Shoames presented Tam with her very own paper shorts -- perhaps she can auction them on eBay to raise funds? "Own the paper shorts Tam has looked at and even held in her hands!" Oooo.

Here we see Breda and Les conferring: This was one of our bigger BlogMeets and conversation was wide-ranging, from politics and shooting to Gilbert & Sullivan, pocket knives, pets, why records (remember those?) had two inventory numbers and doubtless many more topics. Caleb shared interesting items about upcoming shows on Gun Nuts, about which I would love to tell you -- better stay tuned to find out!

All in all, a very fine BlogMeet. Hope to see you at the next one!

As for the poor typing, notice anything funny about that keyboard? Give ya three guesses!
It's odd, people accuse me of being old-fashioned. Imagine that!

On The Road

Old Grouch takes us on a road trip with Feynman and Heinsenberg. Go see! It'll tickle your mind.

In A Rush -- BlogDay!

BlogShoot this morning, must git for brekky!

...And perhaps something to cloy the palate? Nasty hit-piece on gunnies in the -- oh gasp shock horror -- Noo Yawk Tiiiimes. Sample: "Gun craziness of all kinds, including the passage of local laws making it easier to own and conceal weapons, is on the rise." Gack. [Thankee, Turk Turon] Time for some Letters To The Editor! Guess we're the latest group it's okay to loathe?

One way to counter that is to be out there in the world, a decent, good citizen. Armed.

Seeya the the BlogMeet and/or BlogShoot!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

BlogShoot/BlogMeet Updatederest

In re the BlogShoot: barring a public, outdoor range suddenly dropping full-fledged from above, I'm callin' it for Pop Guns. They open up at 1100 hours Sunday and it's a good idea to get there about 1055.

(Also, I'm having trouble typing because Thomas Cat loves the computer mouse and likes to smooth on it, which pushes the buttons. Next thing you know, there I am at the website for veterans of the Patagonian Army, wondering wha' hop?)

The BlogMeet is go for 1500 (also known as 3:oo p.m. but I wanna make sure Tam remembers) at Broad Ripple Brew Pub, 842 E. 65th St, just off beautiful downtown Broad Ripple. Blog readers, bloggers and shocked passers-by ("look, Edwina, it's some o' them-there bloggers!") are all welcome!

Even Cows Can Figure It Out

...Seems even the cattle are leaving MA for NH. A couple of them, at least. Is it the taxes, the gun laws or the state-run liquor stores?

CNN: Supersonic Flight Returns?

Too early to call it a sure thing but it looks as if we may see the return of commercial supersonic travel in our lifetimes! And the weird part? They're talkin' about "quieter sonic booms." Hey, if that's what it takes....

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tam And The Bimmer, Updated

Just took a call from Tennessee. Tam says it looks like she'll be back Saturday, in plenty of time for the BlogMeet.

While we all speculated, the nice lads at the K-town BMW-healer's put her Zed Drei up on the lift and had a look.

Rotor's toast. Caliper, likewise; and that does for the pads. The flexy line at that wheel? Well, observed behavior indicated the brake fluid had been brought to a boil, which is not too good for the flexible bits -- or the fluid, either; and while we're looking, let's just mike that other rotor and -- whups! Kinda skinny.

She's lookin' at about a kilobuck, all told. Talking about hittin' Gunbroker with some listings.

I have mentioned there's a tip jar over Tam's way, haven't I?

Is Nothing Safe?

Nestle recalls chocolate-chip cookie dough. E. Coli calling! Sure am glad I make mine from scratch -- and I have never eaten the raw dough. Well, hardly ever.

Could We Not Just Count And Be Done?

Census hijinks continue! The latest flap? How the Census is to tag same-sex marriages and if they will release the numbers. ...And not run afoul of DOMA in the process.

Such marriages are one of the newer hot-button topics and you can find a wide range of opinion about them, but that's not the point here: it's not hypothetical; such marriages do already exist.

In the past, the Census -- yes, the honored, respected, methodical sugar daddy of the Hollerith card United States Census -- has diddled the data. Fudged the stats. One year, they just "unmarried" all same-sex couples found (and one could argue that is exactly what DOMA obliges the Feds to do; once again, I remind readers this is about what is, not how you'd like it to be). Another decade, they handed out on-paper sex-changes to make things add up, which must've come as shock to any of the so-designated if they found out.

Where am I going with all this? Just here: Show me where the devil it says in the Constitution as amended that the Census gets to ask anyone about how many bathrooms their house has, what race they are (other than "Indian not taxed," anyway) or if and to whom they are married? You cant; it doesn't.

Let's have a look at the document. In the 14th Amendment, para 2., the earlier nasty compromise is amended to this:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Then a bit later on, we got the 19th Amendment (about which I still have my doubts):
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Help me out here -- did it say "marital status" or "percentage with indoor plumbing" in there? Or did it just say, "counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed?"

They'd have a lot easier time of it in Washington City if they'd just read the instructions.

But you already knew that.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Come And Take Them

Update: Joanna wins the internets by suggesting the addition to one's household of a box "...marked 'Not Knives, I Swear, Don't Bother Looking In Here.' Then when they open it and find it full of, I don't know, socks or something, I could shrug and say, 'Hey, it says right there on the box ...'"

[Come And Take] ...My one-hand-opening pocket knives, that is; I've been reading about this for awhile now. Sebastian linked to a newspaper column[1] from Bob "Will wear Wookie suit to run for office" Barr on the subject: It appears the Feds are after my Kershaw or any of the other one-hand-opening knives I own, both over-center versions and the ones with a stud or divot in the blade to let you flip it open easily. Even the ubiquitous Leatherman multi-tool looks to be on the verboten list.

Well, screw you, Feds. I'm keeping mine and I will buy more. They're tools and I use them every day, in innocent, useful ways.

At this point, they've got their fat heads set on banning the import of and interstate commerce in such knives, but once it's on the Federal naughty list, a lot of States will take the next step and ban 'em.

Here's a question: wouldn't an instantly-ready sheath knife be an even awfuller weapon? I've seen the videos (Cold Steel, I'm lookin' at you) in which a first-rate locking folding knife is beat on, used as a piton, etc. etc. but it stands to reason a properly made fixed blade-knife is even stronger -- and there's no fiddling around getting it open at all. And they're not especially difficult to conceal. Ewwwww! Cue panic!

The Second Amendment does not say "guns." It says "arms." You'd think that'd include knives, wouldn't you?

In some ways, this makes me even more angry than going after guns. I carry a gun (at least a little way) every day but I'm doing well if I get to shoot it every other week -- and that's target practice. But I carry and use knives all day, every day; use them hard enough they sometimes break, which means I'd be after some of those nice, banned ones, by and by.

What is it Tam says? "When it's time to bury your guns, that's the time to dig them up." And when it's time to bury your knives...? Might as well try the soapbox and ballot box first.
1. Insert obligatory steam-powered comment here.
2. He swears he had a gen-u-ine Road to Damascus moment; I'm just the suspicious sort when it comes to the motives of politicians.

Tamara And The Bimmer

...So Roomie goes back to K-town for a visit and on her next-to-the-last day there, the brakes on her convertable act up. Ow. Hie thee hence and wish her well. Did you know there is a tip jar?

(Great, another day of having to push the buttons on the dishwasher for myself. Gah! The endless toil!)

If You Have Criminal Neighbors, Carry A Gun

U.S. missile defenses in place to protect Hawaii from North Korean launch.

Three observations:

1. Why is it, ezzacatly, nobody has bothered to slap this loonie down? Do we have to wait 'til he blows something up -- probably not the thing he was aiming at?

2. Funny how the "armed self-defense" approach is A-okay at the macro scale in HI, but Heavens forfend they should entertain the notion of plain citizens being armed to protect themselves from footpads and highwaymen, ooooo nooooo. But perhaps I do their legislators a disservice; this is comin' from Teh Feds and mayhap local leaders would druther send out young women with leis to greet incomng fire.

3. Lost in translation: honest to Murgatroyd, if'n you're gonna get into a genitalia-size contest with the rest of the world, shouldn't you name your missile something other than "Taepodong-2?" (I've heard what they say about fellows who tap it more than once).


The June BlogMeet Approacheth! Sunday, the 21st at 3:00 pm, Broad Ripple Brew Pub!

BlogShoot Update:
Frequent commenter Sam tells me Eagle Creek will be having a Glock competition this weekend, so, no shootage for us there.

We do have other options -- the indoor range at Wyatt's Guns is one of the closer ones. I have not been there since they rebuilt the store and added their seven-lane range. It looks gorgeous! (About 25 miles from Broad Ripple, in Cicero, IN)

There's also Pop Guns, with a nice six-lane range; weekends are extraordinarily busy times for them and it's best to be at the door when they open.

Further afield, DNR's Atterbury Range is said to be one of the Seven Wonders; but it's a healthy drive, 45 miles. The up side is, it's one of the closest public ranges set up for high-power rifles.

Any suggestions?

There will be a BlogShoot that morning at Eagle Creek Park Pistol Range. (This could subject to change, as the Indy Metro Police Department has first call on the range. I will post updates). The range opens at 10:00 a.m. and the BlogShoot has no set time: get there when you feel like, shoot as long as you want! Tam promises to haul me out the door by main force so we'll arrive at opening time.

Why Practice Thrift You Can Extort More?

Headline: "States hitting residents with big tax hikes" 'cos times are tough -- unemployment is up, y'know, and the stock markets are lookin' gloomy. People are being asked to take pay cuts, reduce overtime, go part-time.... I know! Let's tax 'em even harder!

Hemp fans may find a silver -- or golden -- lining in this cloud. In California, "one assemblyman’s proposal to legalize marijuana for personal use and allow counties to tax it is gaining public support. It’s 'one of the wacky things you might be able to get away with now,'" he says. Maybe they could go shall-issue and profit on the license fees, too? Guess that'd be just too whacky.

Government: turning market adjustments into recessions and recessions into depressions since...well, since forever. I'm startin' to think the bottom's never going to fall out of that bucket.


Tam becomes the latest blogger to point out that Brownell's has (at last!) a website worthy of the company, where you can actually find stuff. Yayyy!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


(Which is something the Littlest Cat stands in the hallway and says, by the way. Middle of the night, clear as a bell, "UH-oh!" It usually means "I want in your room!")

Phlegmmie has me looking at shoes. There is not the least chance I could get away with that pair, not at 5' 9"+ and especially not with my bad knee. With extremely high arches and insteps, I cannot buy shoes without trying them on first anyway. But they're on sale! ;) There's always these or the nice Ferragamos here, I spose. But these are more useful for work and riding!

...It's back to the salt mines for me. In Keen's practical closed-toe sandals.

In The News

Looking for news I have not commented upon, I checked all the Usual Subspecks: local TV stations, CNN, MSNBCDHIATENSOR... Hold on! Somebody mailed a kitten! Or tried to. Kitty is okay.

--If that's the news, I'm goin' back to bed. Wake me up if there are any new developments in Iran. And stop putting kittens in mailboxes!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

ABC: Cheerleaders Of The Healthpolcolypse

It's from Drudge but it's worth havin' a look. Beseems come 24 June, ABC will anchor their evening news from inside the White House and follow it with a "Town Hall" featuring President Obama and devoted to pushing his plans for our health care. Opposing voices have been pointedly disinvited. Bet they're breathin' a sigh of relief that mean ol' Fairness Doctrine never came back. Even some Dems are questioning it.


Poly-ticks Ticks On

In the case of Iran it seems to be a countdown, though to just what, exactly, nobody knows. Not to fear, our Prez is in the thick of it, uttering bland platitudes. Ooo, that'll help! He reminded 'em, "The world is watching," and I am sure Iran's long-established sensitivity to the court of world opinion will keep things in line. Right?

While anyone opposing the whackjob Ahmadinejad rates at least an "attaboy!" from me and I'm always glad to see people stand up to a government,[1] for once I agree with the experts: let's just watch.[2] I'll make popcorn!

Update: Conservative Mike Pence introduces legislation saying the same kind of stuff the President had said and is hissed at by a Huffie. Guess it all depends on who's saying that fair elections are good an' shootin' people who protest them is bad?
1. Yes, even the moonbattiest Left and wingnuttiest Right; the more that people -- even annoying people -- get in the habit of suspiciously examining everything governments do, the better off we all are. It's the times popular opinion favors the political bosses too uncritically that things go the furthest wrong -- and it works exactly the same when the pendulum swings the other way. 'Tain't the New Boss that will fix things, it'll be you learnin' to fix 'em for yourself. Or at least you learning to watch the leader-types like a hawk after mice. You're payin' em, after all.

2. I know, they've got a nuke program. This is a problem Israel has a history of fixing in that region. And still none of our business.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Putting AK-47s To Good Use

Next time some ghit tells you "the only thing an assault weapon is good for is killing people." you show him this: Guns and water hoses rid police station of vipers. Or at least make a good start. No, this is not a story from Chicago.

I Can Has Broad Ripple?

Returning a trip for office supplies ("...typewriter ribbons, young feller..."), I motorscootered over t'the Fresh Market , where I bumped into Rene -- the Rene, of the epynomous bakery, simultaneously the smallest and best bakery I have ever seen. He said Hi: I'm not there as frequently as I'd like but along with his great skill, he knows his regulars. Rene's ginger molasses cookies have become a fave of Shootin' Buddy -- y'otta try 'em!

Tam and I have both remarked in the past on the 'stonishing amount of remarkably good food to be found here and we haven't been to much more than half the possibilities. Broad Ripple has a rep as "party central" and it does have no end of bars, even a few live-music venues; but the quality of the dining is the real heart of the neighborhood.

Spent the afternoon mowing the front yard (yardette, more like) with the reel mower, yes, 100% alpha-geekette-powered, in preemptive atonement for a visit to the bakery later on.

My morning was spent in a different way: napping in the gentle embrace of an MRI machine. I actually got rid of all the movable magnetizable items for once, or so I thought. I really can nap in them, despite the buzz and clatter, or at least I can nap for awhile, drifting in and out of half-dreams. I was still a little groggy when, nearly an hour later, the behemoth fell silent and stayed that way; the operator came in, started the tray moving out and laughed. "Your sandal laces," (those little bungee-things) "must have some steel in them!" They were sticking straight up and kept pointing steadily at the magnet as the tray slid. Images were of my right knee and I don't know what (if anything) they reveal. Oooo, mystery!

After a morning of that, it's nice to have this little bitta bohemia to go boppin' around in.

Lawrence Welk, Party Animal?

One Toke Over The Line. Without, mind you, a trace of irony. An' a-one, an' a-two....

Wonder if he ever covered Black Dog?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Venn Diagram Overlap

Lately, I've been looking at manual typewriters again, as you may have noticed. There are some real beauties out there, like the Corona 3 I own, the multicolored Corona Four that followed it or the colorful Royal, Underwood and Remington portables. Underwood, in what may be some kind of play on their name, did woodgrain paintjobs in a handful of colors, including walnut, ash, red and a deep green that might be imitation marble and Royal offered nifty shaded solid colors, while Remington turned out two-tone machines sparkling with 1920s curb appeal -- not to mention sleek Steamliners in the 1930s! Neat stuff; I'm all agog over a Remington orchid & lilac two-tone.

But I don't know enough about them. Some of the old machines have known weak spots, design flaws and parts made of Unobtanium. No point in collecting doorstops, at least not for me, so it's time to learn more. Collectors being the way they are, the Web is full of info and photographs and I commenced to web-wander.

It didn't take long to trip over the venerable and useful Classic Typewriter Page and once there, my attention was caught by a link to a discussion of what must have been a shining moment for typewriter fans: the CBS G. W. Bush "National Guard" letter forgeries. The site-owner provides analysis from the kind of expert experts look up to, a man who knows just about all there is to know about proportional-spacing typewriters, one Fred Woodworth. The name seems familiar and we're informed he is an anarchist.... Oh, that Fred Woodworth!

Can't say he and I would agree everywhere (he floats a notion about the forgeries, for instance...) but it appears he is the sort of surly curmudgeon I admire, avoiding computers and doing his own printing with a very high degree of skill and stubbornness.

Small darned world, isn't it? Now, where's that tinfoil? My old hat's all filled up with CIA mind-control waves! Um, or not.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Phlegmmie recently posted a video from Peruvian wonder Yma Sumac, who did with her voice what her contemporary Raymond Scott needed a basement full of electronics to accomplish -- I have to wonder what might've happened had those two ever been divorced and in NYC at the same time! Some of her music is love it or hate it material, like the tour-de-force Chuncho, which spans her immense vocal range and includes eerie Tibetan-style throat-singing* while others are hip, accessible lounge tunes. For an example of the latter, try Bo Mambo.

Now I've gotta go check out some group called "Combustible Edison" somebody else recommended.... (Back. I'm sold! Thanks, Joe.)
* I can, on rare occasions, manage that myself, which scares the ever-lovin' outta my cats.

Ancestor Of The Netbook

Ancestor of the laptop, too: compact -- heck, tiny -- and made of modern, super-light materials in the first decade of a new century, it had an innovative keyboard layout and lots of features for the on-the-go user. Sound like an Eee or one of their competitors?

It's not. It's the Standard Folding Typewriter, the very first portable machine. Weighing in at five and a half pounds at a time when a desktop typewriters were upwards of 20# and made of satin-finish aluminum, it must've looked like something beamed in from The Future when it hit the market. Never heard of 'em?

Yes, y'have: after three years and 12,000 machines, the little machine was redesigned to use aluminum castings and stamped sheet steel and given a new name: Corona. As in "Smith-Corona," a few mergers on; Corona just grew and kept on growing. The little Corona Number 3 started out with a shiny black paint job and was eventually offered in red, blue and green. It was built from 1912 through 1941 and in staggeringly huge numbers; you can still find them today, generally for the same $50 they sold for new.

I have one (of course), picked up at a garage sale over fifteen years ago, dirty and nonfunctioning. A trip to one of our local repair shops put it back in good order and I use it occasionally. The three-row keyboard can be maddening but it only requires a light touch on the keys and has a nice, crisp "feel." Controls are where anyone used to a manual typewriter reaches for them and it is surprisingly stable for a 6.5-pound machine. (Yes, the design changes added a pound). Built, per the serial number, in 1929. It's a wonderful device!
...This is also a lead-in to an interesting bit of "small world" trivia I'll get around to posting later.

Update: Typewriter Day is 23 June. So I may just type-blog the upcoming BlogMeet to celebrate!

Friday, June 12, 2009

You Realize The Aliens Think We're All Dead Now, Right?

'Cos today was analog television self-immolation day, a 16+ hour day for me, on no sleep from the day before.Your analog TV has (mostly) died. Click through the over-the-air channels (yeah, "what're those." Bigosh, it was good enough for Batman and Maxwell Smart) and you may find a low-power TV station hangin' on (their doomsday comes later) and, as of right now, one or two hardliners that will keep the Sarnoff-and-Farnsworth smoke signals on 'til the very last second but by and large, the decodable NTSC signals of our youth have been replaced by digital carriers that mostly look like amplified noise. The tricks that let modern-as-tomorrow* digital TV carry a big bandwidth in the same space as kerosene-powered TV also produce middlin' good encryption as a byproduct. The other side of SETI won't find much meat in it.

Many stations ran "nightlight" messages on their analog side all day, bland announcements that run to, "...As of today, digital television is here. If you want to keep watching over-the-air TV, you will need a new D$T$V receiver or a set-top converter box. If you can't figure this nonsense out, call us, visit our web page or tattle to our Mom..."

It kinda reminds me of this:

Gotta sleep. Clowns? Ha. I seen worse in the mirror.

Update: "Poor, elderly hardest hit:" Reason Online has a round-up of the transition.
* Prove it's sarcasm. G'wan, try.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

June BlogMeet

It's official!

21 June, 3:00 p.m.
Broad Ripple Brew Pub

Bloggers and blog readers all invited! Food, fun, fabulous prizes!
Also, Breda will be there!

Another Day, Part 11


(The plot thickens. -Ish).

What with one thing and another (especially the SHF control/telemetry dish that hopped a rotational stop which the remote-drone ops ignored 'til the cabling was well and genuinely axle-wrapped, in 3-D), I'd about shelved my own efforts at the puzzle of the stardrive-killed Space Marine -- let alone our H-F.d. visitor -- when I got a call from the Security director a week later. "Bobbi? I think maybe you can help me."

"Really? 'Cos, you know, 'I'm not a cop--.'"

He heaved a sigh. "And neither am I, when you get right down to it. Me and my staff are as close as we've got. But I need somebody who's already got the skinny on the situation and Dr. Poole is too recognizable."

"So what happened to, 'Leave this to the professionals?'"

"Look, Nancy Drew, he knows me and everybody I've got who I'd trust to get this right is up in passenger territory regularly, in uniform, so they're out, too. Like he's not gonna know Miss T on sight? Or Ivan, for that matter?"

"H'mmm, point. But -- 'He?' 'Get what right?'"

"Aw, geez, maybe Doc Poole would be better. This isn't a game!"

"Okay, okay. But what is it?" I was pretty sure I knew already, but I was irked about the "Nancy Drew" wisecrack -- that's the second time this week!

"It's that guy -- George Welles. The Hopkin-F preacher guy. I need someone to see what he's like when he's not being watched."

"What's he got to do killing a Space Marine?"

"Maybe nothing. Maybe— Those "Marines" aren't just soldiers, y'know; they're more like the Mounties or old-time Texas Rangers. So we've got a some kind of a preacher on Far Edge medication, plus a dead Far Edger who's as near as they get to law enforcement and just happened to board at the same stop, which just happens to be a place without a lot of passenger traffic that has a bad history that includes a surplus of self-appointed 'great leaders.' Maybe it's just me but it smells funny."

"With all that, this Welles guy is not gonna think I'm a watcher? What kinda hokey name is that, anyway?"

"I don't know about his name and I'm not asking you to do anything but get curious and keep your eyes open! Besides, how's he gonna know you're not a passenger...?" He went on to explain how his foolproof plan was foolproof. I only half-listened; I was thinking about the mess on Lyndon. Or Linden. Or Peace & Freedom. Or Sunblack II --It's all the same world and the same mess. It's history I picked up in bits and pieces - - a charity drive here, a web page six there, wild rumors and a little time on-planet. It boils down to a mess.

It was the first world the Far Edge ships found after they fled Project Hoplite, the unbuilt missile base on the Moon. And it's the first world settled, too, only not in that order. It was settled in 1946, which is why the Edgers were headed that way. It's not why they skipped out; the ringleaders had decided the Lunar base would be too destabilizing long before they launched and had made their plans and picked their crew accordingly. But what they found when they got there put matters in an entirely different light.

There are plenty of places on Earth's Moon where one might locate a missile base. Some are better than others but it was a matter of chance the three scout ships of Project Hoplite would pick the site they did. That one of the pilots of the 27 ships that followed would notice implausibly regular formations in a nearby crater was not a surprise; inattentive fliers don't last long, let along get far enough along to be where Lt. Farrelini found himself.

The mix of caution and, shall we say, "appreciation of risk" that put so talented a pilot at the controls of a barely prototyped vehicle relying on dangerously-immature technology must have guided his next move. Rather than report his sighting (see how well the conspirators had chosen their rebels?), he noted the location and bided his time. Several weeks later, in his surface assignment as a tractor driver, the Lieutenant wrangled assignment to the survey party headed that way. And proceeded to drive the geologist and surveyor with him right to what proved to be the abandoned remains of a Luftwaffe base.


It's not the sort of thing one would expect. Wild rumors about "The Bell" and preposterous photo-hacks purporting to show flying saucers strain too far at credulity. But there it was, dark, empty and ransacked. One stubby cylinder-shaped vehicle, half-wrecked, stripped of all usable parts [1]; meager pressurizable huts, airlocks gaping; what might have been a solar-powered boiler, engine and generator; collapsed greenhouse-like structures; a few personal possessions and, tucked behind the open inner hatch of one hut's airlock, a stack of thin metal sheets scratched full of closely-packed, tiny writing. The Deus ex machina only goes so far; none of the men could read the language but it certainly looked as German as the faded labels on the doors. Not to mention the stylized eagles clutching an infamous symbol.

That's right. Space Nazis.

There was an abortive effort to keep it hushed up but the cat was soon out of the bag. Translated, the message on the plates told a hardly-believable tale; a secret base planned as yet another "war-winning weapon" proving instead to be one more drag on the dwindling resources of the Third Reich, the warrior-explorers and a small group of "experimental subjects" marooned as the Third Reich fell to the Allies. 'Drive radiation had taken a toll on the group and it was evident Germany was lost; the survivors had reworked the vehicles and planned to flee the inhospitable Moon. Mars and Venus were ruled out after one-way scouting missions to each one resulted in a barely-survived crash followed by reports of insufficient air from Mars and an attempted landing turning to screams from the atmosphere of Venus. In desperation, they'd chosen a long leap to the nearest earthlike star. One man, proud or optimistic of eventual victory, had scribbled it all down in secret on scraps left from the salvage work and left it for those who would follow after.

For the cabal that had hijacked Project Hoplite and the crew they'd recruited, it must have seemed pure serendipity: they had the atomic-armed missiles they wanted to get out of the hands of any government on Earth, the ships, the material and supplies to build a base -- or a mobile space station, a huge ship. They were already planning to disappear and now they had a Mission. A Quest.

I'll just hit the high points: the hurried partial assembly of their vast wheel of a "mother ship" and departure from the Moon, the long, hard, tragic finishing work done in solar orbit, the seizure of one ship by disaffected group members and its disastrous attempt at returning to earth and the consequent premature FTL jump to the indicated star added up to several years. You can imagine the consternation, confusion and re-reevaluation that ensued when they arrived at to find an Earthlike planet that at first appeared uninhabited. Eventually, they found several huddles of hovels: New Germania. And over a hundred very hungry survivors. Compassion won out over caution at first, though at least half the ex-Hoplites wanted to bomb the site from orbit and keep moving. The compassionate faction landed, taking seeds and supplies; this was still when landing was a chancy proposition. It was a one-way trip. The ship, designed for a Moon landing, didn't have enough thrust for a soft landing at the limit of their 'Drive's accuracy and as luck would have, the last hop was overly low. Crunch-down knocked the CLASSIFIED out of alignment, killed both phantasmajector tubes and injured most of the crew. More bad luck followed: sickness raged among the landing party and no further physical contact was allowed. There you have it, Step One of the mess on Linden, the original jackboots-on-planet having been Step Zero. Things improved for a while once the virus had run its course but suspicion and hostility remained on all sides. The ship-bound Far Edge (they'd begun to refer to themselves as being on "the far edge of everything" by then) were settling in to their new life; planet-side, a wary truce prevailed, as the new arrivals had brought seeds, animals and additional tools and expertise. There were even the stirrings of a basic government and steady contact between the planet-bound and space-dwellers.

It was five years after the arrival of the Far Edge when the first ships of the US Space Force arrived, small scout ships streaking through the system on sputtering stardrives, popping in and out of the rational universe, taking photos and making radar sweeps on every emergence into normal space. The Far Edge gathered together and without a word to the planetary civilization, vanished into 'Drive. Call it Step Two of the Mess on Linden. Steps Three, Four, Five and Six would be the subsequent contact, establishment of a military government, settlement by colonists from Earth using newly developed re-entry techniques and the first civil war. It's been forty years since somebody threw out the first incendiary bomb and things have never really settled down; full-on war is rare but no government (or name for the place) has lasted more than five years unless you count the Farmer's Market. The only real sign of progress was when they'd renamed the main port "Star City" instead of "New Germania" and stuck with it.

That's where our "holy man" had been. If peace had spontaneously broken out in his wake, the news hadn't reached the Lupine yet.

* * *

If you're a passenger, a big starship is nearly as class-conscious as an old ocean liner; First and Second class share a dining room and some -- but not all -- of the lounges; Third Class is its own world. It's not as bad as "steerage" on a late XIXth-Century steamship, but it's as basic and crowded as minimum-allotment crew quarters. All passengers and crew have access to the commercial section, our "downtown," at the very bow of the Lupine. First and Second Class passengers make much use of the restaurants, bars [2] and gift shoppes but nearly all those who travel Third have little reason to go there other than the tiny park E&M maintains; it's free, about the only price most of them can afford.

It's quite a nice park, given the constraints of star travel. There are no tall, heavy plants, no large fountains or loose mulch and the koi pond is under glass. Three low "hills" and natural-looking rock walls covered in vines and other plants make the space seem even larger than it is and with a high blue (fake) haze and full-spectrum lighting overhead, it's the next best thing to being dirtside. If that's your thing. Me, I use it as a shortcut to get from the McMaster storefront at one end of district to Swearengen's (an electrical wholesaler based out of Kansas II that I swear stocks everything. All the time.) at the other; sometimes I dawdle or even take lunch there, if I can justify the time.

With this buildup, you know what's coming: our mysterious mystic and his band of followers(traveling Second Class) had taken to gathering in the park a couple afternoons a week and had -- quelle suprise -- started to gather an audience that included no few passengers from Third, Second and one or two from First. Mike proposed I start attending, too, minus my usual collar pin (a lot of us wear 'em; 'Drive Engineering's sigil is the "exploding gear," the lightning bolt and sector gear of Engineering on a starburst, all in gold if you've got the full certification. Not that I'm proud or anything). Of course he had to add that what I usually wear would fit right in, which is both mostly true and a bit of a put-down. Hey, it's a physical job.

It wasn't a terrible idea but I'm not all that anonymous. Plenty of the merchants know me. Security, E&PP workers of various sorts and officers are a lot more widely recognized than Engineering tekkies. Mike's answer to that was "It's unlikely. So what if you are? You're not Security, you're not an officer. Why wouldn't you be honestly curious?"

I wasn't so sure anyone would believe that but I'd've eventually gone to see what the guy was about anyway. Most of my reluctance was for Sheriff Mike's benefit. I agreed.

Nothing's ever easy; the very next afternoon, after a nasty morning, we lost the main stepdown transformer feeding the 'Drive finals, which I described earlier. That gave Mike time to convince the Chief to stick me on the earlybird day watch (gee, thanks) and take me off-call for a couple of hours after my shift on the days Mr. (Rev.?) Welles and company had their shindigs. I was startin' to have my doubts but like it or not, I was a secret agent. Or something.

* * *
1. The cylinder's just the lifesystem; the 'Drive it sits on at rest, and dangles at the end of a long cable from in FTL flight, is roughly bell-shaped. The crudity of the whole assemblage gave rise to the Far Edge slang term "glockey" for a kludge. Hilarity ensued when trade between Earth and the Edge started up and they saw their first Austrian plastic.
2. Sure, we’ve got bars, have a drink! But woe betide the crewmember that shows up for duty noticeably Under The Influence or fails a random alk test.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Tactical Corset. With (good golly, Miss) MOLLE webbing, Fastex buckles an' a high-zoot zipper. What can I say? It's that whole neo-Victorian, steampunk esthetic. (I predict Tam, who's a real suffragette* an' would'a skipped the corset and worn bloomers back in The Day when that was a real rebel action, will snicker).

Thanx to Uncle!
* Best argument we ever had was the day I suggested we go back to only lettin' the boys vote. --Hey, looks where things have gone with the Feds ever since! But I was not entirely serious.

Hump Day Already

And yesterday was one of those "push rock up hill, rock rolls back down over you" days. With the Great Digital Conversion of 2009 bearing down on us like a small dog passing peach pits, this is not good.

I have a short list of items in the Get Done Now category; managed to get one (1) of the less-critical ones on the list accomplished yesterday thanks to various distractions and this-won't-take-long add-ons (hey, what's an hour and a half, right? Not so much by itself but do it three times over and you have lost half a day), not to mention my own late start due to doctoring.

Some days you're the Wright Brothers; other days, you're Samuel Pierpoint Langley. The problem is you never know which is which.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

See? I Am Too Here!

...Spent the morning at the orthopedic surgeons, having my bum knee poked, prodded, flexed and X-rayed from multiple angles, all while wearing cute (not!) little paper shorts, even during my long wait in the X-ray lobby, oh the shame and horror.

This is the knee I wrecked, which gave me much trouble most of May and has tapered off some since. X-rays show fluid and possibly some bone weirdness, though not -- hooray! -- on the side that was bone-on-bone, where the surgeon's attempt at getting some useful scarring going seems to have worked. Nor is the hardware left in (three screws) irritating anything. This adds up to something of A Mystery and, nifty views from three different angles notwithstanding, I get an MRI-or-CT scan next week: MRI if "scatter" from the steel hardware doesn't obscure too much, otherwise CT scan. They do a simple scouting run with the MRI to find out.

But that is just the details. The cool thing -- the really cool thing -- is their high-end information storage and retrieval system. Dr. Surgeon (Brits, bear with) never soils his hands with X-ray film or paper files; nope, it's on computer. And when his 18-months-ago recollection falters, all previous images, his notes, all of that, are just a mouse-click away. Once they've called your folder up (and the interview nurse did that ahead of time), it's all right there. The amount of time, fumbling and explaination ("No, you took the big fish plate and four screws out last time") this saves is simply staggering, plus the doc's got a little more time to clue the patient in on what he sees and what he thinks about it. They've also gone wireless for the interview nurses -- she (or he) walks in with her laptop running, quizzes you, and before the nurse has even left the room, the doc's got the details.

A lot of modern medical practice has left physicians in the position of a highly-skilled assembly-line worker, at the mercy of the systems shoving patients past them as quickly as possible; this one appears to instead maximize the ease and speed the doc gets the information needed, with fewer (zero!) papers to shuffle and more time for doctorin'. I'm impressed.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Tree! The Tree!

...The tree with a fat branch over 20' long -- most of it over our neighbor's back yard -- that we knew was cracked. The tree that one day last week went kh'kh'kh'ker-POW! while Tam was reading on the porch mowing the lawn beneath it (!) and lowered said branch into the neighbor's yard, neatly trapping her grill. That tree.

It's getting a bit of a trim and brush-up today, it is. Beseems the neighbor, she is not so very fond of havin' her barbecue grill trapped by a wild Box Elder (or whatever it is; the tree-trimming guys say it's a hackberry, and they should know) and has arranged for Experts (they'd better be!) to remove the offending branch.

This tree supports part of my nice G5RV wire antenna,* in close to the trunk on the same side as but lower than the branch in question. Keep your fingers crossed!
* This is my second G5RV antenna and until I went looking this morning, I had no idea there was any controversy about them or bias against them. Louis Varney, a British ham with the callsign G5RV (well, duh) developed it before I was born and in his version, it was fed by an antenna tuner -- a widget with a few controls on it that have to be adjusted. This can more-or-less be avoided by putting a long piece of coaxial cable in between the feed point and one's radio but it is a less than perfect impedance match. Newer (read "solid-state") ham rigs do not so very much like that. Long story short, J. Random Ham puts up a store-bought G5RV with 70' of coax feeding it, his YeasKenCom transceiver emits smoke, J. Random proceeds to tell all his pals how the G5RV is No Good. Multiply by a few thousand, add Intarwebz and stir. Yeah. like that. It's never "operator error." When did things with knobs on 'em become Just Too Much for technical hobbyists to frob with?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Confessions Of A BBC Transmitter Engineer

Interesting reading. Somehow, it reminds me of 'Drive engineering on the big starships.

June BlogMeet

What day shall we hold our next Indy Bloggers and Blog Readers Blogmeet, 21 or 28 June? Brewpub or elsewhere? Speak up!


In replies to a long, panicky article about The Horrors Of Radioactivity -- any level at all -- we find this:

My employer was the prime contractor for the Texas emergency response in 2006 mentioned in your article. I was the radiation safety officer for the response.

The weight of the Cs-137 contaminated steel was not quite 500,000 pounds as you wrote. Actually, it was very close [to] zero pound (or 0 kilogram, if you prefer).

Ooops! Shucky-dern. Panic FAIL.

Here's the thing: you're exposed to low levels of radioactivity all the frikkin' time. Your ancestors were exposed to even more. If you dig up the exposure vs. mortality curves (from some sources), they do mostly show the more-is-worse slope you'd expect -- except there's a little "hook" down at the low end, where more is better.*

Yeah, that's right. Better. If you were to achieve the wondrous realm of zero exposure, it just might make you a bit less healthy. (We're talkin' pretty low-level effects, data hard to dig out of the "noise.")

As a rule, yeah, please don't make cheese graters and bedframes with that hint of "hot" cobalt or pinch of plutonium; but don't lay awake of nights over it. Your odds of being hit by a bus are a lot higher. Your odds of comin' down with somethin' awful are far higher -- and greatly reduced by hand-washing, good hygiene and avoiding cheap tattoos.
* Natch-o, I cannot find the graph in question at present; I will check my sources and update. H'mm. Seems to still be fought over. Read for yourself.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

An Immodest Proposal

I think I have found The Answer -- or an answer, which is about as much as one can hope.

We were kickin' around the Electoral College today, bemoaning the States that have pledged their delegates to follow the popular vote, which is a bad idea in many ways (some states would even compel following the national popular vote; so much for your state's voice, hey?). We floated some alternative suggestions -- pick electors by pullin' names from a hat, have 'em pick who to vote for by pulling candidate's names from a hat, etc. -- when it occurred to me:

We've got states in dire need of money, right?

Electors increasingly don't have to make up their own minds, just do as the vox pop. tells 'em.

So why not auction off the position? It'd be a real godsend for California, even helpful here in Indiana, where the State .gov is trying to live within its freshly-reduced means. Why not?

Sure, there's some risk of a wealthy person or group buyin' the election but this is claimed every election anyway -- might as well make it official!

Auction off seats on the Electoral College! Do it for the children!

Update: Scary video from some goofball.

More Update: D'ye suppose I could get Tam to make this a plank of the "No We Can't" party of grownups?


It started more like, "beep...beep...beep...." "-IGHS IN THE 80s with skies becoming partly cloudy by late afternoon...." "Hey, are you awake in there? You need to get in the shower, Shootin' Buddy will be here.At.Eight!"

"Awrigh..." And I struggled up, staggered out for a sip of coffee and stumbled into the shower; before I knew it, we were headed out for breakfast (Taste! Yum), a quick stop at the bank (payday was yesterday, hooray! No, I do not direct deposit nor do I bank over Teh Intarwebz) and Eagle Creek Range, where I proceeded to turn brass, lead and powder into noise and fun. Looked t'me that Tam and SB did the same, only with better accuracy. What could be better? Took my Ruger Mk II, the Sistema and Witness Compact in .38SA. I shot an XD, too, which is like a slipperier Glock with a nicer trigger; it's still very Glocky and I like my 1911 better, but any shooting is better than no shooting and this'n came with loaded magazines. Shot a fine Smith & Wesson .22 revolver, too, which is a treat, just a smooth and nice as can be.

From there back home, to stow things away and clean up, and then a bite of lunch, followed by gutter-cleaning (next house, I'm opting for a less-steep roof and wider gutters), edging and Last Rites for the mummified squirrel Tam's been admiring since it showed up dead at the base of a termite-infested tree in our front yard. ...I guess you don't mess with termites!

I think maybe I need a nap.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Arrgh? Urrr.

o755 and after a crummy night pestered by migraines and punctuated by a missed telephone call, I have been awake exactly long enough to eat breakfast and change a litterbox. I'd like to post something topical, trenchant and witty. I've even got a few ideas.

What I haven't got is the time.

So, without further ado, some linky:

-Tinfoil hat? That's not a tinfoil hat, this is a tinfoil hat! (Lizard-people for illustrative purposes only, not included.)

-Linda Chavez says what all your pals have been sayin' about the latest Supreme Court pick -- will her fellow pundits pay more attention to a wise Latina? Ooops, wrong party.

See ya!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

As Far As They Know.

A couple from Brooklyn (no, wait, they're SF fans) will be the first to marry in zero-G. The video -- a promotional bit from the commercial outfit that flies freefall parabolas for anyone (who can take it) with the price of a ticket -- is worth watching.

I don't know if anyone on the Hidden Frontier has preceded them to the zero-G hitchin' post but it seems unlikely; it's just not all that easy to grab free time during those occasions when a starship's not under acceleration. Floating is fun but life's easier when down is down.

Speaking of which, the next installment of I Work On A Starship, "Another Day, Part 11," is about ready to post. Watch this space!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


Good idea: Ordering something useful to and needed by one's employer on eBay.

Bad idea: Realizing after it hasn't shown up though UPS says it has that it was sent to your previous address.

I sure hope those folks still have the box -- I'll be headed up to my old place forthwithly to make inquiries. Wish me luck!

Update: And there it was on the porch. The locked porch. Locked by the eyehook I had installed, a "childproof" version that kept Thomas the determined tomcat from getting the screen door open during Porch Panther time. No one home, of course. Called up my old landlord, who was good enough to give the new tenant my phone number.

Made arrangements and picked up the device after work last night. Looks like the new tenant's got a black cat almost like mine!

H'mmm. I wonder if I can carry this gadget on my motorscooter?