Monday, November 30, 2009

Prejudiced People With Newspapers

The Bloomington Herald-Times is not only publishing a negative story about Hoosiers with gun permits, they've decided to provide a target list for burglars searchable database. Caleb has details.

Supposedly, the list will not include names, full addresses or telephone numbers. At least for now; it'll only hit on city/county/street name. What's next? A list of gay or Jewish neighborhoods? Perhaps they could list the locations of communists, smokers, Catholics and atheists! Or, wait, I know, I know, what could be more scary than veterans and Libertarians? Better warn the citizenry (who apparently consist only of those who think thoughts of which the newspaper approves) where such dire and dreadful types hang out.

Feckwits. These are the folks who arrange the logs, then pretend innocent surprise when others light the fire.

You've got to pay these weasels to read the articles and I wouldn't flip 'em a red-hot dime on a muggy summer afternoon, myself; here's a link to the perfervid headlines -- note how these breathless ijits put us on the "Crimes, Fires and Emergencies" page. Classy!

Sure would be a darned pity if we lobbied the state legislature make the carry-permit database off-limits.


Top O'The Mornin'

...It must be the top; I crawled too far to get here for it to reasonably be anythng else.

Yeech. Something's laid holt of me, possibly just too much Irish butter on too many sesame lavosh crackers.

Whatever it was, I made an early exit from Family Thanksgiving* with a queasy tummy; felt a little better when I reached Broad Ripple, so I dropped in at the BlogMeet and no sooner had I sat down there than my innards went adrift again.

So I made the trek to Roseholme Cottage, said Hi to Tam, did what needed doing, picked up a book and feel asleep on the couch. 1700ish by then. I was awakened about 2000 by Tam, who suggested I might wanna head off to my own room; stumbled in there and promptly zonked out again, totally out 'til the alarms screamed me most reluctantly awake at 0600 this fine morning and I clawed my way though blear and blankets into what passes for day, though not yet light.

I'm gonna go take a vitamin. It might help!
* Of all the things I regret, having been estranged from my family for the better part of a decade is up at the top. Long dull story that includes trite tidbits like dropping out of college, pursuing unsuitable career in unstable biz (radio), etc.; details don't matter. Once you've been away long enough, no matter how much you love 'em, the skein of shared understanding, custom and habit is broken and it's not ever comin' back; you're always half a step behind, lacking context, never quite connected. Try'n avoid that if it ever comes up in your life. It's no damn fun.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Oh, yeah, that -- um, I'm in a bit of a rush, as happens; I have Family Thanksgiving today, followed by a BlogMeet (at which I will show up late). Of course I have done Nothing Contributory To Getting There so far, having been distracted by housecleaning. (Really!) And by Monster Hunter International -- gee, that's a good book! (It's an uncommon subgenre. Marion Zimmer Brady did a few that were similar, maybe a bit more hippieish and a larger admixture of the Cthulhu Mythos; think Hellboy without Hellboy. And then there's F. Paul Wilson on one side and some of K. W. Jeter's work on the other, shading off into Tim Powers' later novels, but that's still not a whole lot and none of the others have put that Travis McGee spin on it).

A little freaked out right now: I went to look up an interesting book, Agnew H. Bahnson, Jr.'s The Stars Are Too High, only to discover Mr. Bahnson worked on -- held patents in! -- electrodynamic propulsion and died under unusual circumstances a few years after the book was written. However, said book describes an attempt by quite human engineers to use a working "flying saucer" they've built to the trick the world's governments into getting along. The effort, as I recall, fails; and as none of it ever happened (AFAIK), it'll have to be chalked up to wishful thinking, probably along with any "electrogravatic" effects of his experiments.

...Probably. Or maybe there's more to this Hidden Frontier stuff than I'll admit to.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


(Artwork by Shermlock Shomes!)

Dining Library?

Here's where we had Thanksgiving dinner -- the ancient table and behind it: Library, AAA - FAR. I have got a lot more shelves to build; there's one custom and three reused old bookshelves of similar size on the other walls and I'm up to about the letter "R."

Not That I'm Like, Slow

...But I just saw Watchmen for the first time last night. Astonishingly well-done; would that any other kind of SF were as well-treated. Sure, this is a comic book graphic novel, so it's a little easier for Hollywood illiterates to puzzle out; I was still impressed. The characters are considerably more three-dimensional than most in the genre and (like Tam) I was singularly impressed by Rorschach, created in homage to the characters of Objectivist comic book artist Steve Ditko.

Next on the slow list? I just started Monster Hunter International. Not very far in but already, well, I sure hope Correia keeps on writing -- and it appears he is.

Friday, November 27, 2009

November BlogMeet!

There will be a BlogMeet on the 29th (that's this Sunday), 3:00 p.m. at Broad Ripple Brew Pub.

There will be a very fine prize for the winner of the coveted Cup of Turonistan.

A good time will be had by all!

Seeya there!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Another Day, Part 18

For all my glib jokes about it bein' a long walk home, for all the times I have been in bad situations a long way from help, not until now had I really been convinced of my own mortality.

Irene was going to kill me and I wasn't even sure why.
Maybe silence wasn't the best policy. "Irene--" I squeaked, started over, geesh,
think, "Irene, how can I make things better?" It sounded fake even to me.

"Oh, do shut up."
It hadn't gone over well with her, either. "You grubby people, with your grubby ships and your miserable, uncivilized planets. There is
dirt everywhere! You have no idea; Wiitherspoon Processing was clean. It was orderly. Things made sense. This is all chaos and barbarism." She emphasized the important parts by yanking on the lanyard attached to my wrists."It's a good thing I kept up my militia training. Those contractors--" She meant Mil/Space. The Federation of Concerned Spacemen is as close to a real government as the Edgers get but it's not that close. "--They are good enough for routine but I have always known it was just a matter of time before you people attacked us again."

Right over the edge.
am dead, just as dead as Katrina. "They should have just let your 'Federation of Concerned Spacemen' kite off with an entire Moonbase?" She snorted and gave the lanyard another painful jerk. Geez, I'm so good at this. Gotta calm her down. It was hard to think what to say. "Irene, they pretty much did. All that was over a long time ago. We're all friends now."

Friends? You're helping take our Founders back to the dirt and carrying Nazis right beside them, too!"


Thanksgiving Dinner

Turducken: ++++! Maybe we lucked out but it was dee-lish.

Mushroom-Bacon gravy: +++, needs more bacon fat (had to pad with olive oil and some Crisco). Next time, I'll either start with more bacon or fry the mushrooms in something else. This uses FarmMom's good ol' pan gravy recipe.

My skin-on mashed potatoes: with Irish butter! ++++!

...The succotash worked out well and Shootin' Buddy brought a fine wine. Pie is next, with coffee.

Bonus: the wisdom of keeping powdered milk on the shelf is proven once again. Ran out of fresh making gravy and taters.

Behind The Scenes: there was a point about a half-hour before dinner when I had bird(s) in the oven, taters simmering and fungi sizzling and had the dining room table stood on end, sinking 3" deck screws through the glue blocks on the apron and into the tops of two of the legs. It was doweled & hide glued together sometime in the late 19th or very early 20th Cent. and then repaired by a hatchet, woodscrew and Elmer's-glue wielding barbarian in the the mid-20th and the glue bonds are all starting to surrender. Lucky me, you can about see the stove in my galley-type kitchen from the table. Luckier still, Tam found one of the batteries for my cordless drill/driver. They'd been AWOL for weeks.

I Did Not Know That

The grease zerk is named for....Oscar U. Zerk! So it's a good thing he invented them. Held at least 299 other patents and lived well as a result of his inventiveness.

And that's something I'm thankful for. To live in a time when good ideas are rewarded and widely used, that's a wonder we take for granted. It wasn't always that way.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Done Inside The Camera

So I'm drivin' home tonight and I think the scene is interesting, in an Edward Hopper kind of way. Having my camera handy, I grab it at the next stoplight and (bein' a good citizen an' all, plus not wanting to have my lights punched out) shut off the flash, then proceed to snap whenever it seems like a good idea.

Results are...not entirely expected....I'm likin' it. This is one of about five that mostly worked.


Tray Not Found?Yes, that really is what it says. Why? I have no idea. They've got maybe four tray-rack carts total in the whole place. Possibly a bad URL.

Day Before Turkey

We're all sitting on the long benches that run fore and aft, bent over by the weight and arrangement of our gear, shivering, anticipating the drop. Towards the forward bulkhead, there's a flare of light as the drop leader pops the hatch. All along the overhead, indicator lights blink from blue to amber as she waves a turkey baster at us and shouts over our commo channel, "Stand up and hook on!" The ovens are preheated and this is it! We're goin' in--

It feels kinda like that. It's been years since I did a full Thanksgiving; the usual drill was my family's off-day "bring a dish of whatever" holiday feats and my ex's on-the-day family outing to a restaurant (my own mother was scandalized by this practice when first she heard of it).

Let's see, I still need coffee, fresh mushrooms and a little bit of good bacon. (The latter two are for a foolish attempt at mushroom-bacon gravy). That, with luck, should be it; I have everything else we'll need for a meal.

It will sure be a change from my last several working days, mostly spent standing on scaffolding at the focal point of a 5-meter earth station dish, rebuilding the motorized, adjustable feed assembly, an odd combination of delicacy (the drive uses a tiny bicycle chain, with links about 1/8" long) and strength (the fixed part of the mount uses a pair of 1/2" thick circular aluminum plates about 2 feet across, holding a big waveguide assembly almost as big around and half again as long with widgetry sticking out at angles all over). Doesn't make any difference how long you cook that!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tuesday Already?

Let's see, I picked up taters, salad fixings and a Honeycrisp apple pie; already have the fowl... Oh, that's right: content!

Um, gee. Is this thing on?

The November Indy BlogMeet will be the 29th. 3:00 pm at the Broad Ripple Brew Pub! The usual deal, all (all, y'hear me?) bloggers, family and fans are invited.

At Marko's, people actually complain the 1911 is too difficult to take apart! (Sheesh) Tam says everything I would, only she's nicer about it. My first handgun was a Star model "BM," a kind of a 1911 riff with another layer of quirks. C'mon, these are simple little machines; field-stripping does not involve that many parts. John Moses Browning did a lot of thinking to give you a simple sidearm and you're still griping? Guess the big jigsaw puzzles are off your gift list, then.

Meanwhile, this: Hope to follow up that photo at Retrotechnologist later.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Did Jeff Cooper Preach To The Unhearing?

...A local man ignored the Four Rules and killed his wife. He was trying out a new magazine for his handgun and forgot at least three of the rules. He put a bullet through an interior wall and his wife was on the other side. He's widower now. It's been ruled an accident and he won't be facing charges from anyone but himself.

Because the Other Side will exploit it, some gunnies don't like mentioning this kind of situation. I think we shouldn't look away and we darned well ought not leave it to the blood-dancers. It is a tragedy. All the more so in that there is a succinct guide to avoiding this exact situation:

1. All guns are always loaded. (All the time.)
2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target. (Or, "until you are ready to shoot.")
4. Be sure of your target and what's behind it.

You will have a negligent discharge some day. Col. Cooper went to a lot of trouble to figure out how to limit the damage. Please pay attention.

Tamara points out that any -- any -- autoloader can discharge when you drop the slide on a live round. It doesn't happen very often; designers work to prevent it; but it does happen. (This is how come they have sand barrels in places where you've got to reload and there's no proper range and backstop). When it does, you'd better be pointed in a safe direction.

With the Four Rules, a hole in the floor and ringing ears; maybe a hole in something in the basement. Without 'em, a life lost.

"Tea, Earl Grey, Hot."

I was going to ask if anyone, anywhere, ever drank Early Grey tea cold on purpose; it stuck me as wildly unlikely. The people at Snapple, however, seem to have thought it was a perfectly reasonable idea.

Still, that's a drop in the rainbarrel compared to all those who have been drinkin' the pure quill piping hot since 1830 or so and I think I can still say the preferred, indeed, default mode of "Tea, Earl Grey" would be "hot."

That stipulated, why does a certain smooth-headed starship captain inevitably tell the food synthesizer, "Tea, Early Grey, hot?" You'd think "hot" would be understood and it would be "cold" you'd have to specify.

OTOH, I spent over five minutes last week convincing a vending machine at work that A) I had given it money, B) that it was real money and not, say, a good photocopy and C) that it was enough money. Merely having to spell out obvious options of refreshment delivery would be a huge improvement!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Last Night's Dinner

Ended Saturday with home-made "cowboy beef and beans" (which we are not to call "chili") and double-egg* cornbread muffins with chives and a hint of red pepper, served on the patio in front of a fire with a blacklight kerosene lantern. Ummm-hmm!

"Blacklight kerosene lantern?" It sure looks like one: the globe is dark blue! The flame, however, is more violet than ultraviolet. Pretty kewl!

(More pictures later -- mostly foooood.)

Update: So, how do we end up with that meal? It starts with a little cumin, some Cajun seasoning, a dash of black pepper and maybe a little red pepper (YMMV) but mostly, a big ol' lump of ground round:

(Note muffin tin balanced atop oatmeal boxes. We'll get to that later) I'd've done stew meat but I didn't feel like taking the extra fifteen minutes to cut it properly -- nor the extra twenty to get it tender.
Once the beef is browned, add some Ro-Tel and Red Gold "chili-ready" tomatoes, some hippie organic three-bean mixture (it was what we had) and a nice little can of diced green chilis (not so spicy-hot themselves -- but the Ro-Tel diced tomatoes we had were Here For Business, with lime!) and simmer while commiting acts of cornbread. (In three acts). If you were wondering, the green bits would be chives and I used olive oil instead of plain vegetable oil -- I like the flavor better. Brand-new muffin pan, nice and heavy. Worked well. Taa-daa! Ready to haul out by the fire and consume with the three best seasonings there are: "outdoors" "cool-ish" and "hungry!"
* Do you eschew cornbread because it falls apart? Add another egg! It works with any of the box mixes -- used "Miracle Maize" last night, the grocer's stock of ol' reliable Jiffy mix having been totally sold out for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zenna Henderson

I'm not sure how I arrived there -- I know I was looking at Wikipedia articles about Heinlein novels, though how I ended up doing that is a mystery, it's not like I haven't read them all, most several times over -- but I found myself reading about another of my favorite authors, Zenna Henderson.

Her stories of "The People," very human-looking aliens fleeing disaster who crash-landed in lifeboats scattered all over North America in the early part of the 20th Century, offer a nearly unique take on one of the genre's more uncommon ideas and her work outside that series is at least as strong. Widely enjoyed -- L. Neil Smith speaks highly of her and he is hardly alone -- her work is anything but conventional SF, despite straightforward narrative and a deft touch at setting scenes and establishing characters.

Somehow, she makes mindreading aliens as real and as homey as Aunt Bea. Well worth checking out if you never have; despite a lack of rayguns or futuristic appurtenances, Zenna Henderson's worlds are wonderful places to visit.

And The Answer Is:

A) 2.68#
B) $18.73
C) "An ingenious way to ruin the main course of three feasts."
D) A and B
E) All of the above

...If the question is "Turducken," I'll be finding out which (besides A and B) is correct. Hey, I'll have Regular Turkey on Family Thanksgiving. Tam will be along for all this, so you'll get two (2) opinions for the price of one. Also I'll be making skin-on mashed taters, veggies, etc., so starvation is unlikely.

Now I Know

My Thanksgiving-Day schedule: de nada. Nil. Family picked a different day.

H'mmm. I wonder how small a Turducken* one can obtain on short notice? Come The Day, I'm gonna be a-cookin'!
* You say that dish isn't over the top? Lookit the bottom of the linked article where it says, "See also: whole stuffed camel." (I'm told that generally, they throw the stuffed camel out and eat the.... Ewwwwww).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Outta Time

I had a post all sort-of planned out but lost too much time doing (some of) what actually needed doing, instead.

So, how goofy is this? Every year, I buy birthday and Christmas/Holiday* cards for family and friends and nearly every time, I think, "Oh, they don't want to hear from me," and never get around to sending the cards. Sheesh.

Thanksgiving is coming up. I have no idea what I'm going to do this year.
* Not all of my friends are Christmas people. I tend to use generic cards to avoid those calls and e-mails that go, "Menhirs? Menhirs?! I'll have you know we are not that sort of Druids!" Oh, dear.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Too Obvious?

A lot of the emotional statements in support of nationalsocializing health care include the phrase "A country (meaning the government) as wealthy as this one can..." or words to that effect.

There's a problem there, a clear indication that the speaker Doesn't Get It on a fundamental level: This country's government isn't wealthy at all; in fact, it is deep in debt. The fellow who says otherwise is assuming that your money, your employer's money, every citizen's income, ultimately belongs to The State and that The State has every right to decide how it is to be spent.

Don't fall for it. It's your money.

(PS: Have you seen the ads for RethinkReform yet? Not an unhopeful sign).

The Old Phone Saga Continues

Over at Retrotechnologist: Progress restoring my hotel phone, plus a tangent about nutdrivers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hold That Thought -- If You Can

Engineering's Poet Laureate Henry Petroski in The Pencil,* quoting and commenting on an 1897 Century Sears, Roebuck and Co. ad for a pencil with a triangular cross-section:

''This shape prevents the fingers becoming cramped while writing and also the possibility of their rolling from the desk."

...Most writers do not worry about their fingers rolling from the desk....

354 pages (not including bibliography) on the history, technology and philosophy of the common pencil and its myriad creators, refiners, producers and users. Utterly fascinating. If you enjoy that sort of thing, you should head on over to the Amazon link at Tam's and pick up a copy!
* Not to be confused with Leonard Read's libertarian (and far shorter) essay, I, Pencil. Have you read it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, NRA!

The National Rifle Association was founded this date in 1871. It's the oldest civil rights organization in the United States.

The Man's A Saint

Or nearly as patient, anyway. Police officer, traffic stop, very lonely cat: it could have been a recipe for disaster but it appears Our Man In Blue is a a bit of a cat person.

Just A Quick Note

To my co-workers at The Skunk Works: Microwave ovens are not self-cleaning. And to the janitorial staff: really, they're not. Ick.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Old Phone?

New content posted at Retrotechnologist. With photographs and even a schematic!

Me, Too

I heard about it early on: like Caleb and Uncle, I'm glad she's okay. Food for thought there.

Linguistic Patrol: Fetch Me A Willow Switch


The strange little people who live inside my TV set -- all hair and teeth and big, big smiles -- have got themselves a new word. It's not really new; it's a word they have prised up from its proper use and have taken to inserting, willy-nilly, any time they want us-the-home-viewer to be fretful. Worse yet, they had a much better word for the purpose (out here in Big People Land, many of us still use it), which has now vanished from their tiny lexicon.

I suspect one among their number had made itself a new nest in the wainscoting using old business correspondence and while absently grooming itself, happened across a construction akin to this:

"...Concerning yours of the 15th ult. in re the d'Anconia Copper situation...."*

Where you and I might yawn -- the more fools us! -- the clever mediaperson's eyes must have lit up with innocent delight. "'Concerning,'" it mused, "that surely means 'to make concerned.'"

It is at this point that a willow switch might have been most productively employed to administer a sharp reminder while ever-so-gently reminding the creature, "No, blast you, it does not. 'Concerning' means, roughly, 'about' and not a blame thing more!"

It's too late now; every new twitch or sniffle, every bobble in stock prices and, of course, every word from Sarah Palin's pen or lips is "concerning."

It's a worrisome trend.
* Both of my readers who appreciate Victoriana will recall that "ultimo" (ultimo mense) refers to the previous month, "inst." or "instant" the current month and "pent." the previous month but one. Alas, this convenient and charming usage of our crudely primitive forebears has, much like the calling card or a lingering, romantic death by tuberculosis, fallen by the wayside.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Tam: "I used to like your blog. It's turning into a one-note show."

She's right and it's time I put a stop to the topic. Turns out there are some irreconcilable differences amongst us. Look, if you're arguing against the Bill of Rights, you cannot change my mind. You annoy me and you are not welcome here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


There are still morons claiming the Bill of Rights shouldn't apply to religions and ideas they (and I) despise -- even though there is a perfectly good body of law to deal with persons who commit despicable acts. And most of the group also claim that when I state this simple fact, I am condoning Islam.

Wrong, witlings. I don't condone any religion and I'm none too fond of atheism, either -- I think they're all too damn sure of themselves. Personally, I will be very let down if I die and find out this great big complicated universe was just a cheap magic act; but I do not fail to observe how much comfort people find in their faith. Even the ones I think suck more than others.

Saying the other guy can't have his faith -- even if he is some seething Christian Identity jerk or a race-baiting Liberation Theology weirdo or yes, gasp, a Muslim -- is a profoundly unAmerican attitude. On the other hand, stopping any of them (or that agnostic, Baptist or Buddhist over there) in the commission of a criminal act (for the kids that took the short bus, this would include conspiring to commit a crime, too) is patriotic; it supports civil order.

I don't know why some of you can't get that through your heads. I know why it bugs me: you're wanting to jettison one of the most basic notions behind this country. If we're so far gone that a sizable minority are seriously considering Nuremberg Laws, the U.S. of A. is done for. Walking dead. Something might live on but it won't be the Republic. And it sure won't be my country any more. Perhaps it will be yours; more likely you will be its.

(But until you bastards amend the Constitution, it still is my country. Like it or lump it. You got your bedammed "USA PATRIOT Act" and you're not likely to ever be rid of it but there is, still, at least for a little while longer, a limit to just how hard the State can stamp on a citizen's face, or at least to the excuses it can use to do the stamping).

And for the paranoids who think every terroristic act is committed by Muslims, will you pleeeeeeeeze look up the last dozen spree shootings here in the U. S. and tell me how many Muslims were among them? Wait, wait, I'll tell you: one. Most of the shooters gave all kinds of signs they were about to do something way outside of normal, signs that were obvious in hindsight but the lesson there is, You Are Not Safe And You Never Were. Are you any deader if the guy shouts "Allahu Akbar" before he shoots you instead of "I Hate Mondays?" Are you any more terrorized? --Coward.*

Odds-wise, you need to be more concerned about cooks and waiters who don't wash their hands, but you never were safe. I'm sorry it feels all awful to have the scales yanked from your eyes but even if you got your wish and every last Muslim on the face of the Earth vanished overnight, you would still not be safe. You never will be. It's not a safe world and the featherless bipeds all around you are, on average, not that tightly wrapped. A lot of them plain hate you, for any number of reasons. Nearly all of them don't give a damn about you; the few that might are so small a minority as to be statistically insignificant. All of which is another reason to not go policing their thoughts: we'd run outta jails.

Those who would trade their liberty for security will eventually find they have neither.
* Seriously, if these clods scare you more than any other criminal or warrior, you are a coward.


There are three (3) good -- first-rate! -- breakfast places within (more-or-less) easy walk; I have a yard half-full of leaves and a car with tires so bad the rear set isn't holding air; the sun is shining and I'm in here on the IntarWebz?

Not for much longer! More later. Maybe with photographs.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Thanks for the dose of reality some of you have dealt out. I guess I needed to be reminded that the Right can be just as whacky and unAmerican as the Left.

I'm not going to hold debates here. I don't give a flying fuck what you think of me or my ideas and I most certainly won't accept addled "correction" from amateur fascists or hobby socialists. I'm not going to provide a forum for junior Mussolinis or junior Stalins. Either you support the Bill of Rights or you are opposed to the fundamental ideas of this country; there is no kinda-sorta to it, no footnotes or wink-wink secret codicils.

If you're not okay with the Bill of Rights, I am not your friend. I'm not your enemy, I'll save my enmity for murderous scum, but if you're not good with every word of all ten amendments, we're not on the same team, no matter how much you wish we were.

No bunch of ignorant goat-herders and tactical illiterates can destroy this country. I'm not sure why some people on the Right and Left think this nation is so weak, so decadent that unAmerican measures are necessary to prop up some horrible star-spangled shell of what we used to be but I am not playing along with it and I won't pretend it's okay. It's been gnawing at me for days now and the way I figure is, those of you who value your imagined safety so much you'll choose fascism or communism over freedom are the ones who need gnawed at, not me.

I don't like Billy Beck's manners but he's right way more often than he isn't. You can claim Libertarians are "batshit crazy," but it's still better than death-camp pragmatism.

No Free Ice Cream

I don't have anything to say to you people. Go read a book or something.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


In 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the guns fell silent along the Western Front and a war-weary world heaved a sigh of relief -- except in those places to the East, where the fighting continued.

It is sobering to look back and reflect that people sincerely believed that particular war had been so horrible that surely Humanity had taken a lesson from it, that surely now swords were to be beaten into plowshares; it is even more sobering to consider that in the United States at that time, there were still Civil War veterans who could recall a war as terrible as the one just ended and much closer to home.

"Humanity," taken as a whole, does not learn much and I believe learning not to fight would be a very bad thing for our species, for there will always be aggressors to be resisted. Those who step up to defend civilization are heroes. There will plenty of noble speeches and solemn cermonies today but behind them all are those who fight in the blood and dust and horror of war.

Take a moment to think of them. Take a moment to thank a veteran.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

J. Neil Schulman Has A Blog

Maybe you had ought to read it.

November BlogMeet

UPDATE: the 29th wins, with 15 November as a Special Don Gwinn day IF he can attend on such short notice. BRBP, 1500, both days unless someone has a better idea? (Brugge?) Tam will likely be there.

15 Nov: 4 votes
22 Nov: 4 votes
29 Nov: 5 votes 6 votes.

Vote now, decision this evening.

Swine Flu?

It appears that H1N1 has become particularly acute in the Ukraine. Some of the tinfoil-hatted are blaming drug companies -- which seems ludicrous, considering what's at stake -- while others suspect the illness has been misidentified.

Me, I don't know. It's a long way away and I don't speak the lingo, let alone understand the culture well enough to judge the veracity of a news source from the country. As a species, we're overdue for a plague or pandemic; but as a species, we make a habit of beating the odds. I do know that the simplest, oldest methods of preventing infection are highly effective, starting with washing your hands often and not touching your face unless you have just washed 'em. That's true for any cold and flu season, no matter how much or how little governments and news organizations hype the threat du jour.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Presented Without Comments

Image links to site. ISNA is the largest such organization in the United States.Notice the terms "condemns attack" and "denounces shooting." I believe that's what some of you were wanting but not expecting.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

November BlogMeet Date?

It's that time again, when the call goes out: "Pick a Sundayyyyyyy!"

What day(s) shall we have the BlogNov IndyMeet? Suggestions in "comments," please.

I Am About Ready To

...Pull the plug on this blog. 'Cos there are too damn many people out there who would happily volunteer to work the guard towers if Congress decided Monday to lock up all the Muslims in the U.S. behind barbed wire. As it happens, I'm no fan of a faith with many adherents who claim it says I gotta dress like a sleeping bag and can't have a real job; but in this country, you can believe any idiotic thing you want, as long as you don't force others to do so, too. This is actually an important concept, one we fiddle with at our peril.

L. Neil Smith has some interesting thoughts on this, too.

Looky, spree shooters are a problem. Grotty little bastards who wanna be important, who want attention they don't deserve, who go armed into disarmed-victim zones (yeah, "no guns," what a swell idea) and shoot up people who are just going about their lives, they are a problem.

And so is puffing them up into something they're not. In the last ten years, the spree killers in the United States have included at least two different flavors of racist, one whacko who couldn't get a date, and scads of other half-wit causes.

Big damn deal. You wanna concentrate on the disease or on the cure? One thing is for sure: the common factors among such killers are few. Mostly male, generally loners and think they've got a raw deal -- but those are pretty common conditions; if we ran out or locked up every guy that fit that profile, half the science-fiction writers I like would be behind bars or deported!

In hindsight, there are often indications, but once again, many are moody but few lash out.

Nope, you can't fix it by finding 'em in advance. "Precrime" is fiction and if you haven't figured out that "thoughtcrime" is the short bus to FAIL, you have not been paying attention. Planned or impulsive, they are mad dogs among us and the important thing isn't understanding why they are foaming at the mouth, they all think they have got some excuse; the important thing, the vital thing, is stopping them as soon as possible.

And the only way do that is to have a greater leavening of people who understand that such things do happen, who have thought about it and are "armed" with the determination to stop it. A weapon helps but a sidearm is useless if you're not ready to use it* -- in the right hands, a chair or a baseball bat will do the job.

It's human to claim "Group X" is the problem. Sometimes it's even accurate. But it is rarely all of 'em -- ever hear of John Rabe or Chiune Sugihara? How many babies are you willing to throw out with the bathwater?

Why not try the simpler thing first; why not resolve to STOP people when they initiate force against others?

Major Hasan is a Muslim. He shot up a bunch of people who were doing him no harm. One of those things is inherently evil. Can you guess which?
* So, do you have the skill to take out one baddie in a crowded mall with your handgun? If not, what's your Plan B? Always good to have a Plan B.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Aw, rats. A cat just threw up on my keyboard. Typed this on the membrane, but it is slow. Washed the keyboard. Later!As you can see, it is now "later." This keyboard is very good for washing -- the keys themselves are purely mechanical, with membrane switches hidden underneath. I would not have suspected it from the keyboard feel.


Yay, hooray, I've got two days off (unless I get paged). I am gonna have so much fun! I'm going to unwind and relax and....

Rake leaves and touch up paint on the outside of Roseholme. I've got floors to scrub. If I am very, very lucky, I'll have some time to ride my scooter and strip down and repaint the 1920s "hotel phone" I'm fixing up for the basement. Possibly even work on the window seat that I have been planning for the dining room ever since I moved in. Unwind? Relax? Fat chance! I'm burning daylight already.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Broad Brush

[More Update: To the "No Muslim can be trusted" guys: Nobody can be trusted. You should be a little wary (or at least aware) even of the people you know best. Mass murderers come from a wide variety of ethnic groups -- Jews, neo-Nazis, Asians, Cubans, etc. (this whiny site starts with a broad-brush description of such killers that many of their examples do not fit. Or try Wikipedia). Such behavior is so rare that it defies easy prediction. The Fort Hood killer had many of the signs that suggest impending suicide; most suicides take out only themselves at most but if your buddy starts giving stuff away and talking overmuch of the next life, might be a good idea to step up. Suicide is way more common than killing sprees; perhaps it's a personal matter, but who wants to trip over a dead friend some fine morning? Also, as Breda has said, carry a gun; it's a lighter burden than regret. Ft. Hood, pretty much a gun-free zone, even for most of the soldiers].

In other news, 3,699 to 13,999 Muslims serving in the U. S. military didn't go on a shooting spree yesterday. (Update: I'm hearing "over 4000" more than any other figure).

It's not the religion. It's not the guns. It's the crazy. And no one group has a lock on crazy. Yeah, it'd be nice if you could single out the wicked and the dangerously loony with a simple survey. But it doesn't work that way and no amount of pointing-with-alarm will make it so.

I expect a certain degree of "Yes, but--" in response to this, plus a few accusing me of being dangerously blind. Nope; as terrorism, the Fort Hood shootings are singularly ineffective. The guy was a nutjob -- and managed to keep it under control for a good long while, if the reporting is to be believed.

UPDATE: Me, from Comments:

Point: I do NOT mean "crazy" in the sense of "the poor dear can't help himself," but to denote that the behavior does not make sense to anyone but the killer.

What's in it for him? There's gotta be a payoff, or it's crazy.
- Ram planes into a prominent building with major loss of life? Highly visible, hits the Great Satan where he lives (if you you share the Islamo-fascist's outlook), plus effects as noted in the next example.
- Send ijits to blow themselves and bystanders up in Israel or car-bomb London? The point there is both to induce terror in the civilian population and to provoke the government to bear down hard, turning their society into a highly-regimented armed camp -- you know, like a military base.
- Assassinate a high-value target, blow a hole in a ship, blow up a barracks? Pretty obvious payoff.

This guy accomplished none of those things. As an Islamic terrorist, he sucks. He is a better fit to "troubled loner who feels trapped shoots up unarmed innocents," though if those are elaborate suicides, he muffed that, too.

On the other hand, a significant portion of head-candlers get into that line because they think they might be a little whacky themselves; it's a significant risk factor.

Him being a Muslim played a part in this but I'm standing by my judgment: loopy, stupid or both.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


A number of cash-strapped Indiana cities either already have or will be shutting off every other streetlight to save money. There's some talk of "going dark" altogether!

A city full of streetlights is a costly proposition but just one streetlight-type light, not so much.

Here's something you might not know: most electric utilities are still in the "light" part of the Power & Light business. They will lease you a streetlight; it gets hung on their pole (cheapest if there's already one there) and they maintain it. There's a flat monthly fee and you have to sign up for a minimum period of time, a year or two.

It's cheap. At my old house, I was paying $6.75 a month; at Roseholme, I have a 175 Watt job, which the latest bill shows as $6.87, plus tax. It's one of the high-efficiency types, with a lot of light output for the power it uses.

So, if your part of the block goes dark and you'd as soon it didn't, see what it would cost to have a light put in.

This is a good example of the principle of beneficence: you get what you want, neighbors on your block get the benefit of an additional light, but you're not out anything extra to provide it to them.

Why expect Big Brother to do it for you?

Another Day, Part 17

Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt. It happens often enough I should be better at it or at least have better stories: I'm fast asleep and the phone starts buzzing. To add to the fun, I'd fallen asleep with a book on my face (here's to paperbacks!). I fumbled it away and groped for the phone with my eyes still shut. It could be a wrong number, you know.

It was, but not in the way I was hoping. I reached out, whacked the big PHONE switch - I've had to replace the thing twice in the last year - and mumbled, "Whoizzit?"

The voice that replied wasn't especially familiar but the words woke me the rest of the way like a cup of coffee in the face: "Miz --ah-- 'Feynman'?"

Crap. Crap crap crap. Busted. "Wrong number!" I reached for the switch.

"Don't hang up! You are in great danger! We all are."


Rushin' Out

...I have go in a bit early in order to teach a class today, so I'm about to leap into the shower. No time to post much.

So, just for you: The Beautiful Salad:Went to the grocery and everything that looked good was in the red/violet range: tomato, red bell pepper, radicchio and watermelon radish! Very tasty, too. "Green salad," ha!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Interesting Elections

I was pleased at the gubernatorial outcomes in Virginia and -- of all places! -- New Jersey, of course, but the one I'm still examining is NY 23.

A third-party candidate very nearly won; reports have the Owens - Hoffman race at 49%/45%, with 5 percent -- just enough to turn the tables -- going the Republican candidate who withdrew (and endorsed her Democrat opponent, which should tell you just about everything you need to know about the Parties of Treason, or at least most of the candidates they run: they're often as different as a left and right jackboot and when push comes to shove, they stand together). There are lessons to be learned there and I hope people are paying attention.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's Not An Orbital Hilton Yet...

...But they swear the Space Hotel will open on time, up there where the skies are not blue any day.

Free Ice Cream?

...Another chapter of I Work On A Starship is nearly ready to post.

I'm actually kinda working on something for NaNoWriMo, too, set in the same universe but along a very different line of expansion. We'll see if anything comes of it.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Czars? Cars? Banks?

Y'know why they call 'em Czars? 'Cos Narodny komissar -- "Narkom" or "People's Commissar" is too hard to say. (As in SovNarKom) .

I encountered the term looking up the 1937 Soviet census, in which the central government tried to cook the books in advance and when that didn't work, sent the guys who ran it off to gulags and started over -- and kept at that approach until they got the numbers they wanted. Does the first part sound familiar?

Looking into the pre-Great Patriotic War USSR, you can hardly miss the New Economic Policy, started under Lenin in an effort to jump-start an economy stalled by WW I and failed collectivization. Under NEP, small private business flourished, while banks and large manufacturing -- like, say, cars -- were controlled by the State. Where have I heard that kind of talk recently? (Not to worry, Uncle Joe Stalin crushed it flat and went on to starve the Ukraine, which is a trick exactly like creating famine in Kansas).

Checks. Balances. So good to have 'em. Knock wood.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

You Never Lose The Knack

I was done working on a big satellite dish at the Skunk Works and had walked across the parking to our warehouse to put away some anti-seize compound and other interesting items, having left a box with a high-zoot LNB in it out by the dish, to be returned to the main building.

Got the Useful Chemicals back where they belonged and walked back towards the big overhead door. Framed in it, not half a block away, two men in front of the satellite dish, one of the suited-professional types holding up the LNB box and shaking it while one of my peers was obviously Denying All Knowledge.

Blame thing is worth several hundred dollars! Without even thinking, I shifted into big sister/babysitter mode and gave them my best Stern Yell: "You put that down Right Now!"

The warehouse and its ramp acted like a huge megaphone; the darkness within kept them from seeing me. They looked around, saw nothing, and abashedly set the box down and hurried away, doing their best to look innocent.

Heh. It's like riding a bicycle, isn't it?

Pixie Trivia

I'll bet you thought Tinker Bell's appearance in the Disney animated version was based on Marylin Monroe? Guess again!

Ayn Rand Gets Positive Mention In Newsweek

...If it'd been Time or The Nation giving her semi-favorable mention, I'd'a been checking for Four Horsemen on the horizon. Newsweek still seems unlikely but there it is.

On the other hand, it is Mark Sanford, who has good reason to find Dagny Taggart a sympathetic character and probably figures he can't do his image any harm by admitting Ayn Rand may've had a clue. Actually, Dagny appears to be his type. (Dude, Dagny had several lovers -- But. She. Wasn't. Married!)

...Yeah, I'm beating up on him a bit. I'm not especially forgiving of cheaters; if you want out of a committed relationship, get out, then go hang with your next True Love. Not the other way around. If he'd do that to his wife, what won't he do to the public? --Or the Republic? I guess he's seeing John Edwards and Bill Clinton as positive models of manliness. John Galt was too much of a stretch?

Supernatural Collective Nouns

At Wondermark. Malki ! has outdone himself.

How Soon They Forget

11 December, 2008: "I was absolutely thrilled by one fact in this post: the claim that Obama and his team do not plan to use the word 'czar'."

"Name a blue-zillion of new ones," "Don't plan to," it's such a fine line.

Littlest Cat, The Father of Cats, Happy Birthday

The Slinker being both elderly (19!) and tiny, she cannot get back onto my desk by herself. Since both of my cats spend most of their time on my desk, this presents a problem for her.

One of her solutions is a plaintive cry, a one-syllable "Eneyr" that seems to be her version of "up." She uses that one on Tam a lot.

For me, she has a cuter trick. Mornings, I shamble around with a warm bathrobe over my jammies, staring blankly at The Innertoobes until I have had enough coffee to consider operating a shower. This means the hem of my robe is down around Very Small Cat level, so when she wants my attention, she does much as other small dependents do: she yanks on my robe and looks up with huge, soulful eyes.

It has, as you might imagine, a very high success rate.

Here's the interesting part: she's been declawed since she and her late Aunt Janie got into the habit of having vicious knife fights when she was about a year old and Janie was two. So how does she get enough grip to tug on my robe? She manages with one paw; it's not quite as strong as a toddler yanking at your skirt but it's close enough.

Halloween is the unofficial birthday of my mostly-black cats. Tommy (and sisters Jane, Charlotte and Emily) was born in late October (their mother, a feral cat I named Missy who'd decided to move indoors, fetched me to attend at their birth; possibly with good reason, since she skipped out as soon as they were weaned), and The Slinker is from one of two litters born to Emily and Charlotte about a year later. Emily and Charlotte were more traditional about the process than their mother had been, picking a safe, warm place (I lost two quilts in rapid succession!), then moving the litters to a nearly-inaccessible spot under my bed and raising the kits as one big pack; when they came wandering out weeks later, I suddenly had a dozen cats in a 400-square-foot apartment! I found mothers and kits temporary employment as rodent control technicians at the Skunk Works North Campus and eventually managed to outplace all but the very wildest and most shy of the lot, The Slinker; at that point, she moved like a little weasel, fast, furtive and low to the ground. When I finally caught her, she squalled like a wild thing, bit my (gloved) hands and soiled herself. Interestingly, it only took one night indoors, with a litter box and no need to give possums and worse the right of way at the water dish to remind her how much better life indoors indoors could be. She and Tommy made up right away; Janie never quite trusted her and with reason, as Slinky is full of mischief; she would lull her Aunt to sleep, grooming her, washing her ears and then, just as Janie dozed off, bit her on the ear!

Tommy and Janie stayed with me. Janie was a crazy-cat, prone to leaping to the top of my bookshelves, about 6' tall, racing around the room at that level, and dropping to my bed -- she seemed to enjoy it most if I was on the bed at the time. There is something...bracing?...about hearing a mad scramble and looking up a see a black cat with bright white whiskers, eyes wide, plummeting down to land right beside your head! Tommy (sometimes known as Father Of Cats, since after all, he was) has always been a traditional tomcat; where Janie would play wildly with realistic toy mice (especially before she was declawed), Tommy was fond of foam-rubber balls; after I moved to a house with a stairway, he would carry them to the top, drop them and chase them back down, with frequent, happy-sounding cries of "'all! 'all!" In recent years, he's given up the hobby; he moves stiffly and more slowly and his eyesight isn't as keen. Janie's been gone nearly five years now and I still miss her. All three cats were (and the remaining two occasionally still are) inveterate thwarters of string -- trail a shoelace in front of them and it will be attacked!

Tommy and Slinky are napping behind the monitor as I write this. Happy birthday, cats!