Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Likely Story

Couple of days ago, I spent over ten minutes in a dead stop on College Avenue, a street not noted for traffic jams, or at least not at the times I usually commute.

Eventually, I could see police car lights up ahead, so I figured it was a bad accident -- and at an intersection with a police station and a firehouse on adjacent corners. Oh, dear.

We crept on up and as I got close enough, I could see a TV news truck parked ahead on my right, with a camera set up and a crowd looking across the street. I glanced over and-- It was a house! Filled the street curb to curb and overlapped a little on each side.

Yep. They were moving a house down the cross street. I had to call my boss and 'fess up I was going to be late 'cos traffic was stopped for a house in the road. ...There some some skepticism at first....

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

War On Nouns Leads To...

Bad stuff, that's what it leads to. Seems the Executive Branch is arguin' in court that they have a right to [State Secrets!] declare a U. S. citizen a bad guy and then [State Secrets!] put him to sleep like a mad dog. Well, actually, they're not even sayin' that; near as I can figure out, they want the court to forget anyone even asked about it, 'cos it's a [State Secret!].

As it happens, the rat in question is a genuine POS. The world would be made a better place if he was dead. But one of the things that distinguishes our government from a gang of thugs (or at least it used to) is that we have rules and we stick by 'em, especially when it comes to our own. How effin' hard would it be for FedGov to at least convincingly fake it, instead of putting his name on the semi-sekrit Better Dead list and then tellin' anyone going through proper channels that they -- and the court they sued in -- can just sod off, 'cos it's a [State Secret] and the bastid is gonna get the bum's rush outta his mortal coil, no questions to be asked by nobody nohow, no trial no nuthin'.

Like I said, he's an infected boil on the backside of bad guys in a bad part of human society -- but if they can do him at whim and argue [State Secret!] when that niggling little quibble about due process is mentioned, who's next? Who else is in Teh Gummint's "terrorist" files? H'mm.

Heh. "...Includes people who 'Make numerous references to US Constitution,'" does it? Gun nuts? Libertarians?

I said it during the second Mr. Bush's Presidency and I'm saying it now: I am not comfortable with our Government having that kind of power -- and I am even less comfortable with their overtly claiming it.

Alea iacta est. If Luck's a Lady, let's hope she's in a nurturing mood.


"Neither Blood nor Tears nor Gloom of Dreadful Night shall Slay these Couriers in the Swift Depletion of their Anointed Rounds."

I dunno why. It just seemed kewl. Interesting to build a fantasy around.


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PS: Once again, Italy wins on style points! Way kewl. Didn't actually see a whole lot of use.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Robert A. Heinlein Bio: Book Report

It's got me re-re-re-to the nth-reading The Green Hills Of Earth and wondering where my copy of The Past Through Tomorrow* has got to: and it's only the first volume of William H. Patterson, Jr.'s massive Authorized Biography, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, subtitled Learning Curve|1907 -- 1948.

Time and money very well spent. The book walks the line between scholarly tome and pop bio, steers a difficult course between gossipy tell-all and adoring whitewash, and by the end of this volume (with the Colorado Springs house, let alone Bonny Doon, not yet in sight), the guy you know as an entertaining storyteller, a father-figure with a puzzling, even contradictory backstory, has become a three-dimensional human being. Not quite the guy I expected -- but very much Heinlein.

It's a particular insight into Leslyn and Ginny Heinlein, too. While the latter's a familiar figure to most serious RAH fans, the former, not so much; they were married rather longer than you probably think and her influence was greater than I had gathered it to be.

Their circle of friends is fascinating; I knew about the DeCamps and Kuttner/Moore households and even Elron H. (shhh! Don't wake the dragon's spawn), but Willy Ley, Fritz Lang and Jack Parsons were surprises.

My only complaint is that it ends half-way through -- and now I've got to wait until Volume 2 comes out! (Oh, one other: Mr. Patterson doesn't recognize RAH's space-going contractor "Five Companies, Inc." as an allusion to the then-familiar Six Companies consortium that built the Hoover/Boulder dam; but I suppose you'd have to be both an RAH fan and a history-of-technology fan to catch it nowadays).

Highly recommended. Well-written and answered a lot of my questions about just who RAH was.

(Want a copy? Buy it via the link at Tam's and help out a starving artist!)
* One of the very few places you can find RAH's short story Let There Be Light, in which you meet the inventors of the Douglas-Martin sunpower screen -- and they almost don't meet one another. Wrong!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Whirled Poly-Ticks

Tam's favorite spinning bloodsucker, Hugo "Pugsley" Chavez, has had his legislative majority shrunk, despite aggressive gerrymandering redistricting. H'mmm.

What's next, a rash of terrible shaving accidents among the winning opposition-party candidates? Or will it be false accusations and show trials?

Whatever happens, he'll blame the United States; you can count on it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

20 Questions, Quoting Myself

Self-defense, like privacy, freedom of association, freedom of conscience and freedom of thought [and expression], is an inherent human right. The only people who think it is a matter for debate are those who do not recognize that right -- and they are no better than book-burners, witch-burners and cross-burners.

I don't debate commies, klansmen, nazis or anti-gunners, 'cos there is no debate: they're wrong and I don't give a fig how many trains -- or sheep -- they make run on time.

Wrote that in reply to a commenter in an earlier post. Decided I'd be happy to put it on the front page.

Joe Huffman finds debating an anti less than productive for another reason. Although on second thought, his reasons aren't all that different after all; what was witch-burning or herding people off to concentration camps but the practice of irrationality? Who fears ideas and their free exchange more than those whose power and self-image is based on illogical thinking, unquestioned beliefs?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

World's Oldest Railway

Built in, what, early 19th Century, you think? Very late 18th?

Ha! You got lost in the steam, I'll bet. Try 1504; or maybe 1495, And not on the flat and level. Not even in a straight line!

It's the Reiszug, an inclined plane serving a castle in Austria -- and it's still there. Still works, too.

The thing probably started out as a simple sledge and a sort of wooden slide with a windlass at the top. There's uncertainly when rails were added, which is where the "1504 or 1495" comes in, and the stationary "engine" was originally men, later beast, eventually steam and finally electricity.

Say what you will, it's a helluva way to run a railroad.

20 Questions?

Some Bradyite chicklet was tryin' to come off all pseudo-conciliatory, holding out a faux ami olive branch in the form of twenty loaded questions addressed to us poor, 'tarded gunnies.*

Many of the thunderhood have snapped at that bait, often with wit and grace. Many did so in comments on the anti-gun blog that asked the question, which quickly resulted in the "reasoned discourse" that typifies antis: she edited and removed comments. Yawn.

Pretty much biz as usual. But that's not what I came here to talk about. Nope. I came to discuss debate.

Did your school have a debate team? A debate class? Do you know how you get good at it? Takes two things: you must know your subject and you have to practice. (It helps to think logically, too; while some, perhaps most, anti's prefer feeeeling to thinking, there's an occasional boojum among the snarks).

When you go debating an anti, you are teaching them. Knock it off! Address their questions and concerns, if you must, on your own blog where they are unlikely to go. In the spaces they control, you've got to cut them off at the knees. Don't touch their asinine points, don't give them new factiods to miscontrue or practice at framing their hoplophobic, nannying notions. Instead, hit our hard truths -- ask them Joe Huffman's Just One Question, ask why it is they don't want skinny cheerleaders, grannies and gayboys to be able to fight back when baddies try to beat them up, why a retired African-American man should be denied the right to defend his home and family from thugs. Make them confront their wickedness because the antis are in the wrong; they are against human rights and they empower thug rule, bullies, beatings. And we need to call 'em on it. Every time. Every damn time.

Ask them if they're still beating up human rights.

Don't give them a free education. They're not going to do anything good with it.
* One of her commenters suggested, in smug seriousness, that "there ought to be an IQ test " (and presumably a minimum score) before one could own guns, chortling, "That would eliminate most of the gun nuts right there!" Yeah? Bring it on! --And let's see your score, witling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Words To Live By

"But don't stop running, or the universe wins." The article's about measuring remarkably small relativistic effects; the last line is timeless.

Dune And The Singing Cowboy

Maybe it's just the inside of my head, but the name of this brand of corn meal struck me a bit oddly:I'm sure it makes great baked goods, but even a greenhorn knows t'check f'r chaumas 'afore diggin' in....

"Back in the saddle again, out where a sandworm's your friend..."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Enunciated At A Bad Driver

Guy comes barreling up the alley in his tiny pickup truckette, aimed at the side of my $2000 Junkmobile Special stuck in traffic like misplaced olive in a Jell-o mold, waked up at the last minute and stops with the nose of the thing hanging well intro the traffic lane; I gave 'im the stink-eye and said, "If there was a government agency devoted to hunting down you and anyone who drives like you, and beating them to death with barbed whips, I would work for them for free."

I was indulging in hyperbole, of course. I'd want at least minimum wage.

(See, yet another instance of the general social usefulness of a ban on punishments too outré: we're all idiots behind the wheel at least once).

Cruel, Unusual, Gag Order

So, didja hear about the Indianapolis mother who penned up her five children in a two-foot by six-foot closet, shoved a bed or two against the door, and didn't bother to check back for nearly half a day? Two of them died, mom is in jail and the remainder are in foster care. And now the killer mom's attorney wants a gag order, 'cos too much "sensational press coverage" will prevent his client getting a fair trial.

Me, I don't think you can make a bare recitation of the facts in this crime any more lurid. The press doesn't make it horrific: it is horrific. Cases like this make me understand the reason for banning cruel and unusual punishment, 'cos were I in charge, I'd be stuffing her into a junk fridge, backing a car up to the door, and forgetting where it was for a week.


...Yesterday was a bad day. A bad day. It started, of course, with my poor old cat, though that wasn't his fault; he held on as long as he could.

Then I overslept. When I did haul myself in, I got kind of yelled at for reporting my twisted ankle and I may be in trouble because, with two guys on the tower and no backup on the ground, I didn't drop everything and drive ten miles to the Approved Caregiver to have them do exactly what I did (at fifty times the price -- I spent 12 bucks on a couple of Ace bandages) and therefore have no paper trail. I may not even be able to work today until I have all the i's crossed and t's dotted precisely per SOP, for an injury of the same scale, severity and difficulty of diagnosis and treatment as a paper cut.

And then, having wrapped up my half-day's work on what was supposed to be a day off, I was heading back from a quick trip to the bank (so I could feed the vending machines) when a half-wit rear-ended me as I was slowing down for a stoplight at an intersection with a set-back balk line. It was well under 5 mph, just a thud, a jar and a white paint scribble on my rear bumper, but jeesh! I got out and clomped back to swap insurance info and he was only semi-apologetic; first he said he didn't see me slowing, then that his brakes locked. It was raining after a long dry spell and the streets were slick but that's no excuse. I chewed him out and let him go. I probably shouldn't have; he was dangerously clueless.

Went home, had dinner and went to bed. The phone rang several times, which is what happens when you go to bed at 6:00 p.m.

It wasn't a good day. Today will be better -- and I don't much care who I have to throttle, at least metaphorically, to make it that way.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tommy, Several Years Ago

He had settled down with a borrowed pair of socks as a pillow....And then I had the effrontery to take a flash photograph! He returned to his nap when I stopped.

Thomas (Cat) X, October 1989 - 22 September 2010

Tommy didn't make it. The veterinarian called a little after 2:30 this morning to say he'd taken a turn for the worse; his temperature had started to fall and he need an oxygen mask to breath. His white-cell count was still abnormal, despite antibiotics. Time was running out. "I thought you'd better know," he said, "he's unlikely to make it 'til morning."

Tam and I went to the pet hospital. Tommy was on a table, looking like just what he was: a very old guy, on life support. He'd continued to decline and started panting while we were there, needing his oxygen turned up even more. He was swaddled in heated blankets. I petted him and talked to him; so did Tam and the vet. He did start to purr but all too soon, it was time. He passed peacefully and, I hope, happily. It was about four in the morning. I was crying.

I cried when he was born, too. Unlike The Slinker's mama cat, who gave birth under a quilt, quietly, Thomas's mother, a feral I'd named Missy, fetched me to attend at her birthing bed. She'd showed up at my door, wanting in, wanting to be My Pet, and was so sweet-natured I couldn't refuse. Like her offspring (and the tom who probably sired them), she was almost all black, just a hint of white at her throat and tummy. She was a smallish cat, almost prissy, very neat and dainty in her movements.

As is so often the case with female stray cats, she soon commenced to swell. I read up on birthing cats (it's called "queening" and for good reason: you have not seen regal 'til you have seen a mama cat proudly reigning over her kittens) and made a bed for her in a broken kitchen cabinet, just the height of the toe-kick off floor level. She spent some time in and seemed to approve; with a door propped ajar, it was dark and private. I figured she'd have them there, move them to any one of a number of spots soon after, and I'd be well out of it.

I was wrong. One morning while I was getting ready for work, Missy -- now looking fit to explode -- came and got me, insistently meowing until I followed her into the kitchen. She hopped into the cabinet and kept on talking 'til I opened the door. As soon as I did, she went into labor!

It didn't take long; about as soon as one tiny kitten was born and cleaned up, another was on the way. One of them -- the last or second to last -- seemed to be stuck; I reached to assist but before I'd barely started to move, she leapt up to the half-width shelf above and pop! out came the kitten. I think that was Tommy; he was always larger than his three sisters. In due course, she gave birth to four black kittens, who would later be named Jane, Charlotte, Emily and...Thomas. (He was briefly named after the Bronte brother but it didn't stick). I was so touched by Missy's faith in me that I just broke down and cried.

I made up another bedding area in the space next to where she'd given birth and eventually left for work; by the time I returned home, she'd moved them and after I removed the birthing box (fancy name for a cardboard box and a rag bed), she kept the kittens there until it was time, several weeks later, for the Grand Parade.

Missy was a very good mother, but she was a feral cat. As soon as they were weaned, I was going to take her to the vet and have her spayed; but as soon as the kittens were weaned, she went into heat and as frantic to Get Outside! She made a dash for freedom before her appointment, joined up with a big, dark tomcat and they both lit out. I never saw her again.

But the kittens remained, a furry, purring quilt through that Winter, a source of joy as they grew up and explored. Tommy and Janie were with me all their lives; Emily and Charlotte had a litter of kittens each as soon as they were old enough (oops!) and with their young, spent about a year as outdoor Rodent Control Technicians at the Skunk Works North Campus. (They lived in a tent over a ground-level hot-air exhaust that Winter. I found homes for all of them except Slinky, who came home with me).

Tommy grew up to be a dignified tomcat; he had a degree of gravitas, though he was willing to set it aside to thwart string or shoelaces and loved chasing bouncy, foam-rubber balls on the stairs at my old house. He'd play with one by himself at night, chasing it down, catching it and carrying it back upstairs in his mouth, meowing, "'Awl! 'Awl!" all the way. As he aged, he was less active; I'd skip the ball up a flight of stairs and he'd reach out and catch it effortlessly.

When he was even older, he had problems with getting stopped up; like many another aging individual, he had to have Metamucil daily, and eventually he had to have a prescription digestive aid, too. Then came thyroid trouble, and high blood pressure; but he persevered. He spent most of his time on my desk, sleeping behind the monitor or sitting at my right, smoothing on my hand as I used the mouse and helping me type. He had become very frail. His old bones felt like porcelain but he'd leap down from the desk (with a cat carrier as an intermediate step) and until very recently, he could leap back up again, too, despite arthritic back legs.

He was so frail for so long and held on nevertheless. I kind of wonder if he was staying to be with The Slinker; after she passed away, he was pretty quiet, though he was still coming out to be petted as I typed.

I miss him a lot. I've had one or more cats most of my life but Thomas, along with The Slinker and Janie, was one of the very best. He was a wonderful cat.

As for me, I'm lost. I've outlived my adopted children. I just hope I gave them good lives.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recession Is Over!!!

The Recession Ended In 2009!
The FedGov said it, so it must be true.


Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

I Went To See The Tommy Cat

The vet said he was "continuing to improve." Which means he was even worse off than I thought, as he mostly just laid there while I petted him and talked to him. His eyes tracked me a little and he didn't seem miserable, just exhausted. Breathing pretty fast.

Tam went to the pet hospital with me. (I turned my ankle at work,thanks to some holes left in the lawn and a mower who just mowed flat across them. I can drive my manual transmission car but it's no fun). She cried. I cried too.

I'll see how he's doing and what vet has to say about him in the morning. I'm still hoping.

Interesting Times, Parlous Times

Interesting stuff on the editorial -- sorry, "conversations" -- page of our local "newspaper." Michael Barone points out the Democrat split between public union-backed candidates and those the "gentry liberals" favor and suggests the union side "that want more money and less accountability" are winning over the limousine set. Meanwhile, Roland Martin opines that glee on the Left (and Establishment GOP fuming) over Tea Party-supported Republican candidates may be misplaced; a little back-handedly, he points out that motivated voters tip the balance in elections -- and guess who's looking especially motivated? More tea, candidates?

Heck, it's getting better than soap operas.

Cat Update

The vet called at 6:30 this morning. Very slight improvement in Tommy's hydration; they'd've liked to see more but with an old, old cat you can't push it. He's otherwise stable.

And that's all I know for now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cat Worries

My old Tommy Cat is not doing so well. Hasn't since last night, when he'd peed his bed and fallen asleep in the mess. I found him at midnight, after I'd returned from work. I cleaned him up, as best as I could clean up a cat who is essentially a centenarian, but he's been very quiet ever since.

I'll be taking him to the cat-doctor this morning.

Poor old guy. Since last Saturday, his time on the floor not taken up by eating, drinking or the litter box is spent sitting wistfully at the hallway door. I think at some point yesterday it dawned on him she's not coming back. --Anthropomorphizing? Sure. But he's sitting there right now.

Update: Took him to my long-time vet, who put him on IV fluids pretty much immediately. White blood cell count is up a bit, which suggests infection. He did drink and even ate a little. Vet suggested moving him to the 24-hour pet hospital, which I did around 6:oo p.m.

He was pretty sleepy when they brought him out. He perked up some in the car and at the pet hospital, where we had a long-ish wait. He was even smoothing on my hand. Didn't see the on-call doc, as he was busy.

The vet from the new place called me about an hour later; there's evidence of kidney disease, which could have been masked by thyroid issues. So he's off his thyroid meds for awhile, IV fluids continue and -- we'll see. The vets have all been pretty guarded; Tommy way off the charts for geriatric cats. But my vet said his condition looked better than she had at first feared, and the new guy thinks Tommy's got a fighting chance. He says 24 to 48 hours in the hospital.

Poor old cat. I sure hope he starts feeling better. And good thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

I haven't slept without one or the other of my cats nearby in years -- I spent one night without them when I helped Tam move and Tommy and Slinky were being boarded at the 24-hour hospital.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

BlogMeet LiveBlogged

The Jack, Joanna, Old Grouch, Shermlock, Tam and Yr. Crspndt. in attendance:Joanna shows off her "pegleg" ankle, healing nicely (and intact):More later!

...And now it's later. H'mmm, conversation ranged from insanely awkward theater lighting to the need for a "House of Repeal" in FedGov to Tam's odd dreams and even further afield; perhaps the winner was Joanna's report, when her doctor walked in on her taking a photo of the incision to fix her ankle, that when she said, "Just taking a picture for my blog!" his response was, "Oh, you're one of those people...." ...I guess everyone is somebody else's "those people," really.

Adventure Tale: Yes But No

I had the kewlest idea for an action-adventure movie, in which our dashing heroine must outwit the unwashed, print-shop-operating, short-statured survivors of an ancient South American civilization; then it was pointed out that "Indiana Bobbi and the Stinky, Pygmy, Inky Incas" was gonna make announcer's heads explode. (Then there's the problem of 'em not being especially short, nor ever less familiar with bathing than, say, classical Romans. Frikkin' reality!)

Avast! Heave To! Splice The Main Brace!

It truly is Talk Like A Pirate Day (scroll down for a video featuring the Tam-like "Mad Sally") -- and there truly is an Indy BlogMeet this afternoon at 2!

The Mind Oboggles

UPI photo collection: President Obama as depicted in Red China.

The first one, especially: "The revolution isn't success!" Darn straight, pal. Next two continue the theme.

Y'know, this side of the Great Water, "ObaMao" is a clumsy put-down; over there, not so much.

(Semi-related, the Obama Russian hat is still available! Stock up before coal shortage, tovarich).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Arrgh! Made Of Fail

I have been sicker than a dog for the last three hours. One of those digestive upsets. And I should have left for a cousin's funeral about an hour ago. It's not gonna happen; there's no way I can get there. Makes me wanna crawl under the carpet and hide.

Runnin' Scared

Four editorials on the "conversations"* page of the Local Fishwrap (and Sub-Intelligencer): one local bit, praising our Governor's recent appointment to the state Supreme Court while griping about the "lack of balance" he could have fixed by picking the only woman up for the office ('cos genitalia is so important when judging the big cases?). But that space-filling oddity of come-here-go-away aside, the other three are all -- all -- about the upcoming elections; two from the Left, telling Dems not to panic and kind of panicking about the various and sundry Tea Party victories; dear ol' Mr. Robinson even frets that Delaware's Christine O'Donnell "might prevail." The third is from the Right on Pluto: Charles Krauthammer, as the Dour Prophet, chiding the Republican electorate about Buckley's Rule: "Support the most conservative candidate who is electable." And he tells us O'Donnell can't pass the Buckley Rule test.

Me, I am not so sure. I do know this election seems to be the GOP's to lose; but I wonder if playing it too safe, picking the same tired old Party hacks, isn't itself playing to lose. "More of the same" isn't a winning strategy for either party: Congress presently has some of their worst approval ratings since pollsters started keeping track.

What I do know is, the shiny-pink Left from '06 and '08 are running scared and the Old Guard on the Right had better be. And y'all better get out there and vote when November rolls around.
* Say what? No, really, "conversations?" What kinda wimp editorial page is that? Geesh, where's the one called "Impassioned Diatribes?" That, I'd pay to read!

Friday, September 17, 2010

September BlogMeet

Featuring "Pegleg" Joanna, Tam "Rapier" K, and Roberta "Patch" X. Be there -- or walk the plank!

(Original image via Wikipedia)

Ray. Guns.

They're here. Via Unwanted Blog.

Upside: Duh, rayguns!

Downside: Sin-ugly, slow and underpowered. Kind of like an arquebus. Kind of just exactly like an arquebus. Which grew up to be the AR-15, among other things; and the rate of change is faster these days. I would not be selling off the shiny Mylar armor just yet.

I give it, oh, three days before Massachusetts and California ban them -- and New Jersey probably already has.

Served In Secret, Died In Obscurity

Yes, she did; but Eileen Nearne, an SOE radio operator (a job with a staggeringly high mortality rate, every radio transmitter being a great big arrow pointing at its own location) inside occupied France helped win WW II. Captured by German military, she stood up to torture. And when the war was won, she went home to the UK and behaved as if nothing had happened.

Makes my worst weeks look kind of petty. Maybe yours, too?

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The bad part of the Next World? I betcha it is just like this.

Hoosier Incumbent?

The State's got a new website, where you can find out who's representing (or misrepresenting) you in Teh Gummint. Or you could use if to make a handy list of incumbents to vote against!

Heads, You Lose; Tails, You Still Lose

As the local newspaperish published thing points out, the city of Indianapolis have been violating its own ordinance for nearly a decade, operating (oh, horrors) gravel parking lots on the gaping, vacant gap where Market Square Arena* once stood. Cos, y'know, laws are for peons like you, me and the guy who owns a parking lot, not Our Rulers. Right?

Oh, they say they'd've liked to do something different; but the first big condo development for the site went to vapor when the developers couldn't pre-sell enough units and the next two, wellll, the city just wasn't sure they'd work out -- so they backed out of the deal.

What's next? Why, an end to hypocrisy! They'll pave those lots! Right here in River City! --On your tab, of course, at a projected cost of up to $800,000.00 American, which means at least a million bucks by the time the three shells have stopped moving. City officials say they'll pay it all back from what the lots earn -- except they're planning to lease out the whole city parking thing.

Wanna bet the city paving the lots where MSA used to sprout was a condition of the deal?

Here's a tip, UniGov: "privatization" and "creating a commercial monopoly" are not the same thing.
* A/K/A the Lugar Family Revenue Enhancement Building -- or so I'm told.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Chronoportation For Fun And Profit

Echo Park Time Travel Mart! Radley Balko found it but I couldn't resist. Wow, they have canned Mammoth Chunks, just like we used to get in the school lunchroom!

(There is staggeringly more, a whole line of improbable shops, all in support of creative-writing programs)

Library Unscience

In palmier days, the Indianapolis public library system spent like a drunken sailor, turning the old Central Library building into nothing more than an anteroom for a huge (and, IMO, hugely ugly) chrome-plated Brutalist nightmare. Naturally, they got ripped off; substandard concrete work in the parking garage -- oh, and it's the foundation, too -- put the project vastly over budget and behind schedule; as far as I can figure out, neither the blame, who's to pay or that pesky little actual problem has ever been entirely resolved. Taxpayers are on the hook for it and it may yet sink under Downtown's reclaimed swamplands like Atlantis into the sea.

But that was yesterday or last year; maybe the year before. Today, the headline is, "Library system never has had 'cutback like this.'" The grasshopper, having fiddled away the long financial summer on money looted from you and me, is startin' to freeze.* Maybe they can find some gullible type to unload that shiny white elephant on, at ten cents on a dollar? Or it can starve back to something human-scaled, a library with less emphasis on Architecture outside of the 720 section and more on, y'know, books and other media.

Don't hold your breath; among other efforts, they will be cutting back spending on books by a million dollars next year -- and they are asking approval for a property tax shortfall appeal: a tax increase, a way of sneaking around Indiana's property tax caps.

Public libraries: too many are no longer about books or the citizens who use the library but about institutional aggrandizement. Maybe it is time they went away; or at least the big ones did. We'd all be better off if the functions of day-shelter for bums, cheap Internet access and lending books were split up!
* The present Wikipedia gloss on the fable to which I've alluded, you would not believe.

September BlogMeet

Update: bumped to top.

It looks like the 19th is our day.*

How about Broad Ripple Brew Pub? --There may be a crowd, as there is some sort of sporting event that day; we could get a head start and meet at 2:00 p.m. They're opening earlier on Sundays now!

Let me know in Comments if you'll attend.
* I will be working that evening. But I'm working a lot of weekends this Fall. 'Cos the leaves will rake themselves, I guess.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Nationalsocialized Medicine: Wishful Economics

As the timetable churns onward, health insurance companies have been adjusting their benefits -- and rates -- in an attempt to comply with the Congressional mandate* and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will have none of it. "There will be zero tolerance," she fumed in a letter to an industry lobbing group, "for this type of misinformation and unjustified rate increases." Michael Barone has more. From (supposedly) good intentions to unveiled threats, just that fast. (And what's Ms. Sebelius' business background to know what constitutes an unjustified rate increase? Exactly zero! This doesn't keep party hacks from piling on, of course.)

More here, with further links. It all reads like a lost chapter from Atlas Shrugs. Welcome to the Randian Years.
* You will note I still haven't said "Obamacare." Yeah, the administration pushed it, but Congress could've said no. Could've gutted it and let insurance companies sell across state lines. Instead they made a big mess even bigger. Mr. Obama & Co. gave 'em the dynamite, but Congress set us up the bomb.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blog Traffic

I had a lot of visitors, about twice as many as usual, the day Slinky the cat passed away. It was nice of people to visit but I would rather trade the traffic for her still being alive. 19 years is a long time.

A Writer's Life

A writer's life can be a difficult one; my parents were concerned when my teen-aged self declared an ambition to write science fiction.

Science Fiction itself, while enjoying a greater degree of success than most genre fiction and perhaps more markets than most (most of my life, there have been three or four SF magazines on the stands to a single mystery magazine -- and none for Westerns), is quite often simply a slower way to starve. Successful writers like Robert A. Heinlein, Fred Pohl,* William Gibson or Arthur C. Clarke make (or in the case of the first and last, made and have left for their heirs) a fair-to-good living, but most of even the better-known names earn only a modest income.

When it comes to "difficult," F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre was 'way up there, from his lengthy adopted moniker to tales of world travel, a diresome upbringing, a vast and sometimes invented vocabulary and an imagination vividly unusual even for a fantasy/SF writer. And when he decided time had run out, he took a difficult exit, too.

It happened back in June; I missed it but sharp-eyed Turk Turon did not.
* Make that 2010 Hugo winner Fred Pohl!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

11 September

We haven't forgotten Pearl Harbor Day, either -- but we don't spend 7 December in glum whining about those dastardly Imperial Japanese; we went and whupped 'em, after we'd salvaged as many ships as we could from the torn-up harbor.

That was a simpler war, the fighting in the Pacific theatre being "conventional," though much of it would have shocked John Paul Jones or Oliver Hazard Perry. It was a war where the other side was (generally) only too happy to identify themselves; the current War On A Part Of Speech is trickier. I'd still like to see less faffing about and more actual doing of things, like rebuilding the towers only higher, with radar, anti-aircraft guns and laser-guided missiles and for defiance's sake, a big target painted on each one. Come and try gettin' 'em!

Tipton, Indiana enjoys a happy coincidence: their Pork Festival has long been held early in September; they just added on the 11 September 2001 remembrance -- and put another pork chop on the grill! Yeah, and the women of Tipton pretty much show up with bare-nekkid arms and uncovered heads, too. And they're gonna keep right on doing it, too, 'til the last Mad Mullah/Mrs. Grundy is made to stop callin' in fat-headed fatwas over what free people choose to do.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Slinky (Cat) X, January, 1991 -- September, 2010

Her full name was "The Slinker," from the way she used to walk, low to the ground, head up and alert, almost like a little weasel. It was a legacy of having spent the first six months of her life living outdoors, in a field frequently hunted by red-tailed hawks. Several years of indoor living eventually ended that habit, but she was never at ease under a moving ceiling fan. As a result, the fans here at Roseholme rarely ran.

Slinky was always a sweet (though mischievous) little cat, for whom the world was born anew with every corner she turned. She was tiny; in midlife, she'd bulked up to almost eight pounds, but generally she weighed between four and five pounds. With huge ears, great big eyes and being very fine-boned, she always looked like a nearly-grown kitten. She was so elfin that one of her nicknames (and yes, it's hopelessly twee) was "the Fairy Princess Cat." Like the Little People of legend, she wasn't unarmed: her upper cat-fangs were unusually long; smoothing, she'd "teeth" you just a little and when yawning or with her chin up, she looked like a tiny sabertooth or vampire kitty.

Over the past week, she began having more and more difficulty navigating and by last night, I was concerned she might have become nearly blind.

This morning, a little before 9:00, she had a seizure. She'd had them before, at long intervals, but this one seemed especially bad; she was meowing in distress and couldn't stand. I made her comfortable and stayed with her while Tam fetched a phone and dialed the vet. They advised taking her to the emergency clinic (Noah's Pet Hospital, where I've taken my cats before) but but the time I'd changed from robe and nightgown to jeans and a T-shirt (Tam stayed with Slinky), she'd stopped breathing and did not have a perceptible heartbeat.

My vet is half as far away as the pet hospital and a hasty call later, I was on my way to the vet's office. The vet did find slow heartbeat -- once every couple of minutes -- but it was too late and had probably been too late from the moment the seizure started.

I took awhile to say goodbye and to remind her to be a good kitty.

Last night, I'd thought about letting her sleep on me awhile, and passed it up. I wish I hadn't; there was nothing she liked better than to get comfy right on my chest, purring and kneading. She'd stay and nap for about an hour and then she'd have had enough, hop down and demand to be let out of my bedroom.

Slinky was a good cat. After 19 years, she was like a person to me (in fact, Corporal Slin- in one of my Starship stories is based on her; each of the three USSF reservists is based on one of the cats of Roseholme Cottage). I miss her.

(A little more about Slinky and her Daddy. Also here).

Past Eight And No Content?

Yepper. Overslept. Cooking breakfast now. More later!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Meanwhile, On The Hidden Frontier

I spent my time in the shower this morning considering the only known predator of the buffalion of Kansas II. It is, of course, the so-called "trap-door weasel," actually a very large insect that lives in "cities" of pit burrows the stretch across migration routes of the herd omnivore. They are hunted in a manner very similar to the way prairie dogs are hunted on the Great Plains; similar, but not quite the same.

I may have to explore this in greater depth over at I Work On A Starship. Hoping to post an update in the current story arc before too long, too.

Fortunes Of War?

"All your base are belong to us," the commanding officer announced, as his troops took control of the baking soda factory....

Overheard In VFTP Command Central

Tam: "If I was minded to believe in conspiracies, I'd wonder at all the attention given to the off-again, on-again Koran-burning in Florida and the Ground Zero Mosque. It's almost like they want a global war to get the economy moving."

Your lips to FDR's ears....

Elsewhere: there was an animated cartoon version of Animal Farm? And it's on YouTube? H'mmm.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Use What For A Which?

I couldn't help it. I giggled so hard I almost fell down.

Tam and I were headed into $LARGE_CHAIN_STORE and I glanced at the wall in the vestibule and there was this...sign. A helpful sign. It said:


Somehow I read it as the euphemism, "Convenience," and for one tiny moment, all I could think was, Why? Is the plumbing stopped up again? Ew! It was straight downhill from there. Poor Tam had no idea what was going on; I had just started chortling for no obvious reason. It was a good thirty seconds or more before I was able to explain.

Nanny State Knows Best?

Our would-be nannies in government really are afraid of fire. One of their biggest peeves is that little fire about a quarter of Hoosiers still have in front of their face: cigarettes. Oh, cigars and pipes, too, but the 'umble coffin-nail is their Dark Beast.

Leading the charge, none other than grandstanding Gary anti-gunner (and Democrat; but I repeat myself) Charlie Brown, the man who smuggled a realistic-looking six-shooter cap gun into the Indiana House chambers last year to protest the gun-in-your-car bill that assures thousands of Hoosiers of the ability to legally carry the means to defend themselves as they travel to and from work.

Rather than further education or even free smoking-cessation materials to purse what he calls "a major health issue," Representative Brown wants to spend your tax dollars to create and enforce harsh laws. "I have to keep pushing," he says, working to ban smoking in every place open to the public, even three-sided bus-stop shelters. Private, members-only clubs and cigar bars? He says even those are up for debate!

Oh, those wacky Dems, you may sigh or even chortle, but standing shoulder to shoulder with Representative Brown is his House colleague Eric Turner, R-Marion, admonishing the public and his duly elected elected fellows that Indiana just isn't keeping up with the times -- or places like scandal-ridden Illinois, either. These two fine laddies, they have a plan: whichever party is in power, they will make with the ban.*

The reality is that less then half the States in this here Union have passed such bans and of them, well, the police have generally got better things to do. It becomes one more selectively-enforced tool, primarily useful for government shakedowns of business, especially bars where the clientele are members of some group of whom the regulator disapproves. Too veteran, too pale, too dark, too non-English-speaking, too conservative, too gay, too pierced and/or tattooed? And smoking? It's shocked they will be, shocked to find that smoking is going on in there....

Bar owners -- and their customers, too -- are adults; the people who own those other open-to-the-public places are, too (and in the case of, say, bus stops, they kind of are The People). Why not trust them to make up their own minds? And if there's an outcome you'd rather see, Mssrs. Brown and Turner, why don't you try messin' with their heads from that bully pulpit you've got, rather than using the threat of fines and force?
* An American Banned? Um, you have to know '70s song lyrics to follow this'n.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


Update: huge thanks to Ric, commenting from On The Scene!

Look, I'm opposed to burning books; I'm practically a bibliophibian myself and when first I read Fahrenheit 451, I didn't think it was science fiction or social commentary, I thought it was a horror story.

But if you own 'em, you can burn 'em.

There's a big fuss in the oldstream media -- and likely some parts of the blogosphere, too -- about Rev. Terry Jones, minister in Florida (sanctimonious Big Network article about him) who's fixin' to have a Koran bonfire. It has provoked reactions ranging from predictable -- various Islamic groups expressing outrage, the easily-roused rioting in the street here and there in the Third World, the usual chorus of fools wailing about intolerance[1] -- to the surprising: General Petraeus warning it "could endanger U. S. troops." (Soldiers, hostages, sausages, it's all so confusing to officers these days...).

Lost in the noise is the fact this wouldn't be a story without the noise. We're talking about a church in Gainesville, Florida with fifty members (and no word on how many of them attend every Sunday). If they were planning to burn a pile of Alice Cooper LPs Marilyn Manson cassettes Lady Gaga CDs, it might have made the local paper and/or TV news. Might.

But thanks to the awesome inability of the Steam-Powered[2] News Screamin' Headline Complex to ignore a juicy headline, a 58 year old preacher with an honorary degree has got the United States, our Army, the Mayor-Beast of Babylon New York City[3] and the Islamic nations (not all of them theocracies but in most cases, close enough) all packed up in his little matchbox.

"Asymmetrical warfare?" I'm pretty sure I know who's mastered that art at a more than Texas Ranger level of asymmetry. "One riot, one Ranger." One preacher, one planet. Or a big chunk of it, anyway.

Meanwhile, ABCNNBCBSTimesPost bewails the inflammatoriness of it all. Hey, if you really mean it, stop fanning the flames!

And Muslims: y'all can cherish and protect your own copies of your own Book[4] every bit as much as you like, but here in the United States, we have not only got the Bill of Rights, we have (still) pretty good laws regarding property rights. If the minister or his church owns those books, they can burn them. Don't worry, you've got plenty more, not to mention schools full of young men memorizing the entire thing. Paranoid much?

(Elsewhere. Oh, yeah.)
1. "You keep using that word; I do not think you know what it means."
2. And not in a good way, either.
3. "It's distasteful," he sniffed, adding it is within the minister's rights. At least so far, ey, Mr. Mayor? I'm sure you're workin' on it.
4. I keep wondering if the good minister has stockpiled English translations, or the Arabic original? 'Cos any really good Muslim'll tell ya, if it's translated, it doesn't actually count as the Koran. Y'know, unless it works out better for 'em to do so....

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Ogden On Politics

Somewhat related to Tam's post covering the latest on allegedly (hahaha) DUI Officer Bisard, Paul K. Ogden writes about the Marion County GOP and the 2011 mayoral election.

It's starting to add up to a one-term Mayor. If his party was clever -- as opposed to loyal -- they'd scare up someone better and try to forget the lad. Don't hold your breath.

When it comes to the grassroots, Mayor Ballard and his handlers have a tin ear; witness their continued but low-key presence at Indy 1500 gun shows, after any number of gunny-alienating moves and zero effort at conciliation. Y'know, "But we ain't Democrats!" starts to ring pretty hollow after you've (metaphorically) been stabbed in the back a few times. You're not the only game in town, either.

Me, I wonder who the Libertarians are going to run.

Window Seat

It makes cats melt!Details -- well, some -- at Retrotechnologist, as soon as I post them.

Monday, September 06, 2010

An Extra Day Off

I'm currently enjoying corned beef hash with eggs cooked atop it, so "enlivened" by little hot peppers from next door that I'm eating mine on toast. And I slept in!

Still, it seems a funny way to celebrate workin' for a living. Would it not make more sense to go in early and skip lunch, too?

Labor Day in the U.S. has come more to mean another excuse for holiday sales; most folks couldn't tell you why it's in September -- and even fewer would know Labor Day for most other nations is the first of May and of that number, well, they probably would know the event that workers -- and shirkers, who sometimes outnumber them -- are commemorating happened here.

Interestingly, the bomb-throwing person (possibly assisted by others) who initiated force at that event was one of the workers (unless he was a Pinkerton man or provocateur); withal, one of the more prominent speakers (and one of the men later hanged for a death caused by the bomb) didn't want anyone shot or bombed;* when fliers were printed up for the Haymarket rally/riot, "...the first batch of fliers contain[ed] the words Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force! When [August] Spies saw the line, he said he would not speak at the rally unless the words were removed from the flier. All but a few hundred of the fliers were destroyed, and new fliers were printed without the offending words."[from here]

History: it's a lot more complicated than they ever told ya. (For instance: "During the late 20th century, scholars doing research into the Haymarket affair were surprised to learn that much of the primary source documentation relating to the incident [beside materials concerning the trial] was not in Chicago, but had been transferred to then-communist East Berlin." --from Wikipedia, previously linked). All we see are shadows on the wall. And it only takes one idiot with a lit fuse to start the avalanche that makes it a lot more complicated and bloody.
* Or did he? The linked bio cites a different and highly inflammatory pamphlet he wrote and published the very day of the Haymarket Riot, exhorting, "If you are men, if you are the sons of your grand sires, who have shed their blood to free you, then you will rise in your might, Hercules, and destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you. To arms we call you, to arms." What is Truth? asked Pilate; History answers not.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Dynamite Gun

Apparently, it was real, though one of the more interesting descriptions has an eye to putting it in a decidedly unreal context. Still: dynamite gun! Kewl. Not to mention the dynamite gunship.

Well, That Was Interesting

...Shootin' Buddy showed up at some ghastly hour in the morning -- 0800 or some such -- and carried Tam off for a healthy breakfast. Me, I stayed home and struggled my way awake.

Luckily, they waited for me 'pon their return and in due course, or at least due course:45, the three of us headed up the Monon.

I have not been bicycling as much as I should. I'd argue the unusually hot summer we've had has made it more difficult -- but I'm weaselling and you know it. We went as far as Bub's (now world famous -- deservedly so but it means the lines are longer than ever!) and kept going. Mind you, that means through two tunnels and over a high, arched bridge: I almost had to get off and walk, climbing it.

Further up the line, Tam spotted a turnoff: The Hagan-Burke Trail, so new I can't find it on Carmel's bike-trail website. It was a pleasent few miles of winding pathway, before ending at an East-West connector bike line on a busy street; we we turned around and headed back.

By then, bike shops were opening (at least the ones that open on Sunday), so we stopped and shopped (I needed a new valve cap, Shootin' Buddy's in the market for one of those center-frame bags) and made our way, eventually, to the Broad Ripple Brew Pub for fine pub grub.

By the time I got home (Tam and SB diverted to the grocer's), I was fair wore out, but it was too good an opportunity to miss: with three adults and a truck, I was able to get the window seat out of the garage and into the house. (And I left my sidearm in SB's glove compartment, having stowed it there while crowded into the truck with a very large piece of furniture; late word is it's in his safe and will return on his next visit. Meantime, I've stepped up from the little .380 to my "winter gun," an old Star BKM 9mm -- it's that or a 1911).

Got about that far and had to nap. Srsly, 1600 on a beautiful day and I was horizontal and asleep about as fast as it takes to type. 16-some miles on the bike, a hearty lunch and a couple of good stretching-out breaks: I should do it a lot more often.

It was a good day.

All Right, Then

I'd say something clever -- I even had some notion what it was -- but it'd just prolong a ridiculous argument and I'm late to get in the shower as it is.

More stuff later, interesting stuff if the day goes as planned.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Updating Ruining The Classics

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The Keeper of the Gate:
"To every person upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can someone die better
Than in facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of their parents,
And stupid purblind, PC clods?"

...With sincere apologies to Thomas Babington Macaulay and every teacher of English in whose class I was a student.

[Edited to make the joke, such as it is, a little more overt]

September BlogMeet?

Any preferred days for a September BlogMeet? --We may need a special detail to help transport Joanna (now recovering from ankle surgery), if she's up to attending.


Latest sensation on the international tourist front, a guided tour of Berlin's public washrooms! --No, it's not a joke.

Not to be left out, Washington, D.C. offers a guided tour of Congress. Don't forget your poncho and goggles -- maybe a little disinfectant, too.

Friday, September 03, 2010

All Four Rules

Jeff Cooper's Four Rules -- or the NRA's Three, or the U. S. Army's old 14 -- include exhortations to control muzzle direction and to know one's target and what it behind it.

It's 2010 and the word still does not appear to have reached every shooter. The linked story tells of a local man, in his own suburban front yard, who was stung by a small-caliber round from a long way away. He's okay, other than pain and a slug stuck in the muscles of his back (he's saving up to have it removed); things could have worked out far worse if he'd been only a little more unlucky.

Colonel Cooper tells us, "Be sure of your target and what's behind it." My father, teaching me to shoot using the 1950s bomb-shelter behind our semi-suburban house as a backstop, favored a more Socratic method:

"Okay, your target is on The Hill (as the shelter was known). Where does the bullet go if you miss?"
"Into the ground...?"
"What if you shoot too high, what's on the other side?"
"The cornfield."
"That cornfield's not half a mile wide! A .22 bullet can go over a mile. What's on the other side of the field?"
"Ummm...a pasture...?"
"Yes, and?"
"...and Mr. -----'s farmhouse?"
"Yes. Yes, it is. You keep that muzzle down! You don't touch the trigger until the sights are on the target. Bullets always land somewhere!"

In hindsight, I can't fully imagine the degree of faith and worry that went into his teaching an 11-year-old child safe gun-handling; but he went about it in a way that stuck with me. My older sister and younger brother got similar sessions, too, and on more than one occasion. Kids didn't shoot unsupervised and supervision always came with instruction.

Safety: it's your business. Bullets always land somewhere.

Bonus Ijits: What goes "bang" and lives in a stewpot? Hint, it's occasionally found at airports! There isn't really a Rule for this, but if there was, it would be one word: Don't. If you can carry a gun, you can have it in your luggage on the plane if you follow the clear guidelines to flying with guns. Within the basic TSA procedure, the rules are a little different for every airline but you can find them via the web. The TV station, journalists, f'pete's sake! -- even managed to find the TSA guidelines and add them to their news story.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Oh, Almost (Editorial Page)

One commenter thinks Indianapolis has too many teenagers shooting one another (we do); she even gets as far as suggesting solutions should include "More activities and safe places to hang out...[t]hey want positive role models...." but having already loosened the lug nuts with "The Second Amendment was never designed so that young people who do not have the cognitive ability to control their impulses or solve problems effectively* could draw a weapon any time they felt that someone disrespected them," the wheels come right off when she abjures us to, "[D]o our part to ensure that youth are safe by removing the availability of guns...." What, by making it even more illegal than it already is? The Second Amendment does not apply to minors. Never has.

Another writer -- Indiana University School of Journalism Deep Thinker Anthony Fargo -- frets that mean ol' President Obama has signed a bill that protects American citizens freedom of speech entirely too much. It seems that some U.S. publishers lost libel suits in countries who lack law or tradition akin to our First Amendment and Congress has attempted to fix that by requiring U.S. courts to refuse to enforce judgments coming from such counties. Mr. Fargo opines that this law is a bad thing. How, exactly? Hey, Mr. School of Journalism, do you want your line of work to get even deeper in debt and trouble, or were you expecting such Bill Of Rights bypassing lawsuits would only affect those of whom you disapprove? Ahh, he'd rather judges were allowed "discretion." That works out well for you...when your side is picking the judges. No, hells no, there's no sneaking around the Bill Of Rights by venue-shopping, you slimy ninny.
* Put that way, it sounds as though she believes they never will master impulse control or complex reasoning. When the prevailing thinking shifted from inculcating civilized values in the young (by main force if need be) to nurturing their inherent preciousness no matter how ignorant or brutal it might happen to be, everybody lost -- especially the kids.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Not Shooting The Bastards

I kinda support the not-shooting thing, for a number of reasons which I may not have explained clearly enough; or perhaps my adherence to the zero-aggression principle makes me an "idiot."

Mind you, the simple notion that you don't start fights but you're free to end them is echoed by the late Col. Cooper, who replied to being told "violence only begets violence" with the observation that if he had anything to say about it, it most certainly did, and with overwhelming strength.

There are plenty of folks out there -- most famously the "Threepers" -- who are willing to draw their line in the sand and explain precisely where it is and what conditions consitute crossing it. By so doing, the very least damage they do is handing their opponents a road map. And depending on how one's resolve and response is stated, it can even be a criminal act in and of itself. "Making terroristic threats" is one of those Homeland Security crimes you don't want to commit, even if you were hoping to write your memoirs in jail. Not every Threeper has done so -- indeed, most are more circumspect than their PR would suggest -- but it's why I view them as the frailest canaries in the coal mine. When they start to vanish, things are heating up.

There's Reason One: 'Cos it's lousy tactics at best. "Hello? High Command? Mr. Rommel? Hey, we're gonna be landing at Normandy, early in June..." No. Do Not Do.

Reason Two: 'Cos "direct action" does not have a good track record. Weathermen? Made of fail. The various 20th Century assassinations of public figures? Huge fail; the most infamous one gave us LBJ and LBJ gave us, among other messes, Vietnam and the Great Society. You want a Euro-style Social Democrat government here, one way to get stuck with it is if some criminal starts taking potshots at Federal politicians: the survivors will get carte blanche. Shooting Archdukes has a proven track record of working out very badly. Check out the Balkans if you think I'm making it up. Heck, check out striking coal miners.

Reason Three: It's not time. It doesn't take much study of history of the American Revolution (or a quick read-through of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress*) to grasp that to succeed, "direct action" requires a number of components. Among them:
- A degree of popular support -- not merely dissatisfaction with the way things are but a willingness to take drastic steps to change them. I'm not seein' that second thing. Oh, there's a willingness to take some steps, but they are steps in the direction of rallies and voting booths and that may yet be enough.
- Adversarial attitude of the existing government towards the governed. Ours is maybe at 50%.
- Organization. The Continental Congress didn't suddenly spring into being; it was built on a wide array of predecessor organizations. No corresponding group exists...yet.

The Statists have already "initiated force." They were busy doing it when Mr. Wilson was polluting the White House. They were snubbed by massive noncompliance when they tried Prohibition. They were initiating force in the 1930s, when Garet Garrett tried to wake your grandparents up. The governmental structures and traditions of this country have ensured that it has been very diffuse force, ramped up ever so slowly; but as anyone who has watched materials testing knows, it doesn't matter how slowly it is done: keep applying force and eventually there is a breaking point.

Quite often it's a lot more force past the bending point than you'd expect. But if the force keeps on increasing, it is reached, as inevitably as water runs downhill or communism collapses. You don't need to hurry it along. --And that's Reason Four: 'cos war zones suck. It's been a hundred and forty-five years since any Americans had to live in one right here at home and we've largely forgotten what it's like to be stuck in a post-Katrina wasteland that persists, waning and waxing, for years. I'm in no rush to open that can of worms, especially since I may end up having to choose between eating them and starving.

We're not out of options yet. Why take any irrevocable steps before you're obliged to?
* Robert A. Heinlein. You should own a copy. Buy it via the link at Tam's.

Gun School?

Yep. Tam's taking another class; Peter Pan may've sung, "I won't grow up, I don't want to got to school," but it turned out he had 1337 combat skilz anyway.

Grownups have to learn 'em, or maybe relearn them, which is why my roommate, with tens of thousands of hours on the firing line, has put herself in the capable hands of Louis Awerbuck. Every little bit more of correct drill you do, every morsel of information from the folks who have Been There and Done That you absorb, the better off you'll be.

One of the basic benefits (and therefore often overlooked) is that any good class will instill and reinforce good gun-handling, a topic that has been much on my mind since I dropped a gun week before last. I'd had a little .32 repaired (a Star, a very pretty example of their 1911-inspired platform; like Tam, I'm fond of .32s but I confine my collecting to Star, Savage pistols and the occasional Astra) and the 'smith had put it in the triangular gun rug upside down to the way I'd sent it. Opened it too casually and down it went, right to the (hardwood) floor.

You might say, "No worries, it's steel and no self-respecting gunsmith would send back a firearm with one in the chamber!" True, but they're only human -- the fellow who fixes my Stars, he may be pushing "superhuman" -- and it is Always Loaded. Oh, it's not like I tried to catch it; one of the Minor Rules but an important one, Never Try To Catch A Dropped Firearm. Nevertheless, I treated a gun about like it was a slab of bread and darned near broke a toe in the process; and I'd've still been lucky if that was the only negative outcome.

The cure for that is more class time; barring that, more time on a range where the other shooters -- or at least the guy(s) in charge -- do not hesitate to call out bad gun-handling. Before you can think about hitting what you are aiming at, you've got to make safe handling skills your default behavior.

Which is a long-winded way of saying I have got to get to the range -- any range -- this weekend! And it's about time I took another actual class; somebody's got to be running a "Handgun 201" refresher.