Monday, January 31, 2011

Ice Storm

Right now the ice pellets raining down make a sound like tiny glass bead cascading though Hell's biggest hourglass and they might as well -- it's a countdown to trouble and the only question is not "if" but "how bad?"

No answer to that. My drive home was not hellish only thanks to Downtown's heat island and a zillion rush-hour motorists ahead of me.

Egypt: Now With Glow-In-The-Dark

I guess I'm just a pessimist. With widespread rioting in Egypt and the breakdown of civil order in that country, my brain lit up a radiation trefoil and posed the question: "Are there any reactors in Egypt?"

Why yes. Yes there are. At least one of them is a bit wonky. If you're the worrying type, you'd be wondering if maybe they already had a sneaky weapons program.


Remember just a few weeks ago, when decent, ordinary Muslim Egyptians were standing shoulder to shoulder with their Coptic fellows to keep halfwits from disturbing Christmas celebrations? I sure hope there are a lot more of those guys than wild-eyed kaboomies; but I would hate to have to bet on it.

Except we already kind of are.

Yum, Victory Bread

...I dunno. Picked up some plain white bread at the Hippie Store and realized it was marked "gluten free" when I got home.

For toast, it's like something they'd feed members of the Outer Party in1984. Starts out with some taste and texture but turns into a mouthful of sawdust.

Bless 'em for tryin', there's folks who cannot tolerate gluten, but this is the very essence of ersatz. ...At least Postum succeeded (for a long time) on its own merits....

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"A Day Called X"

They named a day after me! Too bad it was the (simulated) day the (simulated) response of (real) Portland, Washington Oregon (dadburned geography!) to a (simulated) atom-bomb bomber attack (simulatedly) occurred:

...Meanwhile, ain't nobody official got nothing planned for an Egypt-type massive outbreak of civil unrest. I'm pretty sure Portland-style -- or, more like it, New Orleans-style -- evacuation won't work out very well.

Perhaps one might care to consider making one's own plans?

An Ancient Outrage, An Ancient Right

...And one they don't have any more. Turk Turon takes us back to the Tottenham Outrage, when Crown subjects lent their personal sidearms to police and helped them run a pair of desperate robbers to ground; a time when Britons commonly carried personal weapons and the murder rate was a fraction of the present day.

Which is the greater outrage, I wonder: a single running gunbattle, or disarming an entire nation of people?

It's Wrong To Snicker

Even though no one was hurt. It's impolite to giggle.

...Still, when something goes awry in the sewers in those hours between bar-closing time and dawn, creating a tooth-rattling explosion people nearby compared to thunder; and it happens along Massachusetts Ave, heart of the "Arts (and gay bars) District," you'd think the people inside my tellyavision would have the grace to refrain from calling it, "An explosion that blew off manholes along Mass Ave...."

They didn't refrain. They used the phrase, big as life. Great, we were getting free urban renewal along that street....

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Still Running A Fever

Aw, geesh. I knew I was sort of floaty and out of it.

I'm gettin' horizontal some more.

Melting! Melting!

What a world: The kilogram is shrinking. That is, either it's shrinking or the other kilos it is compared to are growing; there's no way to be certain.

To add to the fun, there's no consensus on what should replace the present physical standard. Most of the other basic units have some derivable definition, such that given a physics lab and a few tens of thousands of dollars, you could dope out your own Meter or Second (and feed a starving grad student). Not so with the unit of mass.

You realize that if each kilogram is lighter, it looks like I'm getting heavier, don't you? So unfair!

Fred Pohl Has Been Lied To

...But haven't we all? Thing is, Mr. Pohl's been lied to about a specific subject: firearms.

And since neither personal inclination nor geography (spent most of his childhood/early life in the NYC/NJ area and has been been living right handy to Chicago, IL of late) has led him to dig especially deep, when he sits down to write his personal reaction to a tragic event -- the outrage in Tucson -- he relies on (probably) the newspaper and therefore tells us the Glock is "a rapid-fire weapon that can accommodate a 30-bullet clip, ands it has only one real use. It’s of very little value for hunting or for Grandma to keep under her pillow to repel burglars. What it is good for is the killing of groups of human beings by a single shooter, and for nothing else. For that reason, it was outlawed by federal statute until 2004, when that law expired..." [due to NRA lobbying].

Yeah, he's wrong about everything except who pushed for a sunset provision in the AWB. Hold your horses, it gets deeper. (Don't you go over there and set him straight; it's already been done and discussion has moved on. For a prime example of the difference between a bright guy who doesn't much like guns and a knee-jerk reactionary like "japete," you could not find much better: comments are unedited, run about 5:1 pro-gun and generally stick to addressing facts. Fred never gives 'em the la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you treatment, either).

But back to quoting; next para., starting from a flawed set of factiods, comes to a false conclusion: "Since no conventional rifle or pistol could have murdered so many so fast, it is entirely due to the work of the National Rifle Association that most of this current crop of victims are dead."

...And if you started with the same lies he was handed, if you'd grown up in a time when cops walked a beat with a revolver on their hip, in a place where firearm ownership was expensive, difficult and uncommon, you might have come to a similar conclusion.

This is the kind of anti-gun activity it is worth discussing. I've argued against debating outright antis for a number of reasons: their minds are made up, they have no new arguments and all you're doing is helping to sharpen their debate skills.

I wouldn't go debate Fred Pohl even if discussion was still open: you're not going to convince him to be a pro-gun guy, not against a lifetime of experience and inclination. But I don't think he's the kind of man who likes to be misinformed, either, so I'm glad there were plenty of SF fans ready to step up and share the facts:

- A full-sized Glock is very little different to, say, the .45 pistol American soldiers carried in WW I and II. It has a longer and more definite trigger pull but can be fired just as quickly -- and no faster -- than the WW II handgun. The frame of the Glock is plastic but it is still mostly metal by weight. They are a popular weapon for police departments.

- Either one (Glock or 1911) is a pretty good choice for Grandma's self-defense if her hands are big enough, though I'd advise a safer place than under the pillow.

- Glocks have never been outlawed in the United States.

- Large-capacity magazines have never been outlawed, either, though the manufacture of new ones was prohibited during the "Assualt Weapons Ban." The only effect this had was to increase the price of existing stock of such magazines.

- It is a nasty little secret that "extended-capacity" magazines are less reliable that the ones the gun was designed for (normal capacity for the 9mm Glock used in Arizona is 17-some rounds). If the crazed murderer had to use normal-sized magazines, his gun probably would not have malfunctioned as it did. It takes a couple of seconds to swap out a magazine; the death toll could have been a lot worse.

- The National Rifle Association is not actually in the the business of ensuring lunatics and lawbreakers are armed; they are out to prevent peaceable, law-abiding citizens from being disarmed.

So, I guess in answer to Mr. Pohl's query -- he wondered if NRA members were proud of themselves after Arizona (yes, sir, I am, especially since a lawfully armed American was among the first to respond to the crime) -- I have a question of my own: who told you all this arrant nonsense about Glocks, and are you proud of having your argument undermined by untruths?

'Cos Fred Pohl is bright guy; he's probably got some interesting and original thoughts about the role of privately kept and borne arms in society and I would like to read them even though we are unlikely to ever agree. But he was lied to, produced near-gibberish as a result (grammatical, well-written gibberish) and bedamned if I can make head or tail of what his reasoning might have been had he been in possession of the facts.

I may get a chance; in his follow-up posting, while he asks everyone to drop the subject for now and accurately describes comments as "vigorous," he adds, "I think there’s a lot to be learned from the discussion, and so I’ll try to come back to it soon."

It is possible to have a firm opinion and an open mind at the same time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Visited Mom

Saw my Mother this morning. She's awake, off the ventilator, off most of the IVs and even out of her least as far as a recliner. She counts it as big progress (between naps) and so do I.

It Must Be Morning

Heard from in front of TV, where Tam is catching up on important world events:

As the traffic report starts: "Oh my G- What is she wearing?!" (It is somewhat indescribable. You couldn't wear that sort of thing on the radio).

Weather: Tam: "Apache dense fog? Apache fog?"
RX: "I sure hope nobody sold them savages any toasters." (Long story).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bumper Sticker



...Passengers are reminded that premises must be checked before boarding.

Hospital 5 (From Home)

We did go up and see Mom; she was on a ventilator, still under and had an impressive collection of IVs. Her day-shift nurse is one of the impressively fit, hyper-competent young men one encounters (sometimes) in nursing, the sort of guy that had the balance tilted a bit away from nurturing instead of towards it might have been a policeman or a Marine.

Word was she'd be vent-tubed and out of it for a long time, so I stayed awhile, went home, ate, laid down "for just a minute" and slept for five hours.

I'll go back up in the early morning.

Hospital 4

Sitting in one of the conferring rooms waiting for the surgeon to finish dictating his Serious Medical Notes.

Updates to follow in this post.

Update: One valve replaced, one bypass. No transfusions (yet). Aortic valve was "good enough." No surprises, he says! --We'll be able to see her in an hour or so. Medical Niece says we could not have asked for better news.

Update 2: 1:10 pm. Anesthesiologist is talking with us, says she is in her room now and doing well. On a vent and getting the usual "interesting" brew of post-operative meds. Not conscious yet and still on a ventilator.

Dr. Sleepytime left and the Chaplain took over for him. She's telling us we might be able to visit Mom in twenty minutes or so.

Hospital 3 -- So Far, So Good

Chaplain came out with an update while I was getting coffee: the work is done and Mom's successfully off the heart-lung machine.

Surgeon is closing and will be out in an hour or so to give us the lay-language debriefing.

* * *

In other news, the "Starbucks" coffee at St. Vincent's Heart Hospital borders on undrinkable. I got 2/3 of a cup and topped it up with half-and-half; this produces merely double-strength coffee, almost like what you'd get at a regular drive-by Starbucks. So what gives, does just any outfit who will fork over the bucks and buy their beans get to sell whatever they brew as "Starbucks?" Cle-ver. I'd thought they at least had the virtue of consistency.

Lacking that, gimme a restaurant-grade Bunn kept clean and bought-in-bulk generic ground coffee, please. At least it won't eat through the cup. It's good enough for the Navy!

Hospital 2

They got Mom on the heart-lung machine successfully awhile ago; this is a huge step, maybe the biggest single step of the whole procedure.

Now they're working on bypasses as needed and valve replacement. (Organic, either piggie or moo-cow, depending on what the doc thinks will work best). This will take several hours.

At The Hospital

Yep, Mr. Surgeon-man come to tally up blood levels,
(Gurney come and she want the good drugs)
He say Mom she be ready for the heart valves,
(Gurney come and she get the good drugs)
They take the Mom X and we're all waiting in the lobby
(Take good care Doc, bring me Mom safe home).

--Baby Bro went off to the chapel. He's Professionally Qualified to operate the machinery in there. Me, doggerel and hope is the best I've got.

A Morning Post

This is pretty much a placeholder -- I'm for the shower next and then off to the Heart Hospital, where they may or may not have wi-fi and it may or may not be publicly accessible.

My Niece The Nurse-Practicioner* says it is likely surgery will be happening today. I'll be reaching the end of my coffee, toaster "pastry" and paragraph at the same time, at which point, I'm off to get ready to head to the hospital.
* A professional qualification we should all get used to, since they're picking up more and more of the slack as doctors become increasingly overworked and burned out -- and you can just bet Obamacare or Republicare will fix the hell out of that, oh indeedly-do, ha ha ha haha.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mom X

I had not mentioned that my Mom had scheduled some heart surgery. It was going to be tomorrow; she slipped and fell today, scary but producing only minor injuries, and now the docs haven't decided if they'll proceed or wait.

We'll find out in the morning.

GOP A-OK With DOJ Internet Snooping

You thought with a Republican majority in the House we were making progress back to a FedGov that respected your freedom?

Better sing that to Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and sing it plenty loud; they are pleased as punch to require your ISP to retain scads of data about your online doings and then sell that info (free for nothing) down the river to Mr. Obama's overseer Attorney General Eric Holder. They could not be more proud to turn your Constitution-readin', gun-ownin' online self over to the Feds, in fact.

That whole freedom of the press thing, that business of reading what you want, posting what you want, heck, it is way over-rated. You'd prolly just form up Committees of Correspondence if they didn't watch you like hawk. Or read you some Tom Paine or Ayn Rand and get all kinds of baaaaaad ideas.

Radley Balko linked it and he gets a lot more hits than I do; but in light of his recent white-featherwaving over what Mass. did to TJIC, I thought it might be wise if somebody else pointed it out, too. Just in case.

(Frikkin' Republicans. I never saw a bunch of guys more eager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory than the wise old silverbacks of the Grand Old Party).

State Of The... No, I just Can't.

Couldn't make myself watch it, can't make myself comment via the transcript.

Lookit, this is supposed to be the Chief Executive hauled up before Congress to report on how his job is going and what he thinks it'll be needing in the near future; he's not talking to us and he shouldn't be trying to sell either the Legislative Branch or us on anything.

Instead, Glorious Reader gave us what these things usually are, a U.S.-ified edition of the old Soviet leaders addressing the Party Congress -- and they, I will note, had the grace to only hold such shindigs once every five years, not that it helped.

And the once-marvelous American Experiment accrues another layer of obscuring ivy as it crumbles to magnificent ruin, Twelve Tables and all. Ooops, wrong Republic. Same idea.


To my considerable amusement, Network News is this morning expressing irked surprise the President didn't mention gun control; they've even invited anti-rights activists on the air to join them in murmuring disapproval. --This shows why Mr. Obama is President and they're just nattering nabobs: he can recognize a non-starter, or at least he'll listen to advisors who can. Fundamental human rights, newsies, ever hear of 'em? It starts with property and the most basic sort of that is your own self, which is what you use to think, speak, read and believe as you please -- and the right that follows from that is the right to defend your right to do so. Get it?

--Only the wind answers. Most of 'em don't even read the First Amendment carefully enough to catch the part about religion, so why should I expect them to grasp the underpinnings of the Second? Awfully good of them to be anti-rights on live TV, though, and give everyone a real good look at their thin and hateful souls: they don't trust you to be armed. They don't even trust you to take care of your own health.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1938: Manned Moonshot

It's called "The First on the Moon" and it's a documentary of that long-ago, first Soviet space program....

...Mind you, the fellow in charge of the movie says it's simply a commentary on a system that treated people like machines.

Whatever it is, it's brilliantly done; with a former government that led the world in, ahem, creative history for his background, the filmmaker has come up with something fascinating.

You can't get it on DVD, even the Region 5 version (PAL standard) listed at Amazon is unavailable -- but it's right there on YouTube, in seven parts. Enjoy!

(And if you're visiting Farside City, see if the Russians have a tour of the memorial site scheduled during your stay. Oh, it's long ride to a forlorn and lonely place, just another patch of Moonscape with a discarded lander-stage, some empty tanks and tins and a tattered, sun-bleached flag, but terribly moving all the same).

New Meds: Good News, Bad News

Good News: The doctor wrote a 'scrip for a different tummy-calmer! (Ondansetron, it is, sounding as if it was last seen menacing Tokyo).

Bad News: Got it, looked at the package insert and it's an opiate.

Geesh. Darned thing had better work. And without messin' me up otherwise.

Beware The Toaster Gods

A very long time ago, I replaced a toaster just 'cos it was old and ugly.

In so doing, I must have angered the Toaster Gods. I have been unable to casually make edible toast ever since.

It comes out burned. It comes (partially) out snagged. It gets snagged, never pops up and flames come out instead of toast. It toasts for ten minutes and comes out hardly toasted. It comes out with weird toaster mung on it. Or ants, no matter how careful I am of the crumb tray.

Do not offend the Toaster Gods. Though their scope may be small, their vengeance is swift and long-lasting. Or are they malevolent AIs, starting with the first Toaster With A Brain™? Impossible to be certain (see "Law, Clarke's, #3") In either case, I blame Thomas Disch.

(SRSLY, WTH? It's about the simplest darned appliance in the entire kitchen. Set the doneness knob, drop 'em in, latch the sliding thingie, tick tick tick, toast, right? Not if you're me. Sheesh.)

Meanwhile, at XKCD, the odd effects of forming long sodium chains are studied.

Oh, and I'm goin' back to the doctor. Woke feeling icky again, took an anti-nausea pill and I still feel icky, just less likely to shed ballast.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I'm As Recovered As The Economy

Which made today a Day From Hell. Finally did take a Bella Alk once I got to work, after a nasty panicky departure in which I lost the pill bottle, gave up and figured I would do without for as long as I could, then urp heroically and see how I felt afterward.

Found the pills after I'd stumbled in. They'd burrowed to the bottom of my purse.* I was therefore able to swap queasy drifting mixed with red-hot annoyance for the semi-drunk, clumsy, ill-controlled effects of that witches' brew right before I managed to get into hot water with the brass. --Hell, I had it coming, almost, but anyone who has noted the parallels between tech-types and some other, challenged folks knows the problem with face time.

Now try that after a quick, stiff drink and looking into a well-irked face. Degree-of-difficulty points, hey? But I neither ran nor horked, 'cos I'm strong like that. Also, there was broken stuff to be fixed if I got through it. (Double-secret broken stuff that wasn't written up, even).

Stumbled and staggered through the day, did not break anything or cause outages, got half a bag of cheese crackers and a bowl of rice down for a late lunch, then found them wanting back out the way they came in right before going home time. So I tried it the other way: took another anti-heave prescription pill and drove home.

And if I am barfy tomorrow? Hospital. Trying to work while I have symptoms like this is idiotic. Even though I accomplished a little, the risks to myself and others were too great.
* There is a reason why I love purses with a great many sections, pockets and compartments and this incident demonstrates it.

Happy Birthday, Tam!

Yes, JMB's self-adopted gundaughter is now mumblety-mumble years old. Many happy returns, roomie!

Playing The Odds

It has fueled wild speculation for years and I would bet there's a very tiny spark under all that smoke: Operation Highjump sure seems to be a more of a "better safe than sorry" military operation than serious Antarctic exploration, a move just in case the Axis had some holdouts biding their time in the cold. Even the abrupt departure fits. ("Mission Accomplished" or "Nobody Home?" You cleared for that?)

An amazing venture either way.

Rumors Of My Recovery

...It may be exaggerated. I didn't get to keep my breakfast for very long. Then again, I hadn't taken my henbane beforehand, either; since it is don't-operate-heavy-machinery stuff, I figured I'd swaller a tab once I got to the Skunk Works and simply eschew driving anything that outweighed me. By going-home time it would be wore off, me so clever, ha ha ha.

Didn't work.

As we are not vouchsafed a plethora of (paid) sick days and unpaid ones require you be calling from the mortuary (there's an in-between option but that only works from the hospital), I'm gonna proceed as planned and ignore the Unfortunate Breakfast.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

As Falls The Pundit

...So, I'm readin' one of the linked stories on the departure of the Olbers-Man (you realize this totally confirms the rumor that Comcast is run by orcs, don'cha?) and there are commenters referring to his program and others of the same ilk as "news."

They're not alone; I hear folks on the right refer to Mr. Limbaugh's offerings as "news," too.

Folks, they ain't. They're commentary. Opinion. Entertainment. That's how they're logged, too; stations and networks keep track of how much Actual News they dole out, how many minutes of commercials, how many public service announcements and so on; it helps when their license comes up for renewal or when they get to playing the dozens with the competition. Way Back When, brilliant essayists like Harry Reasoner got their five minutes a day on the radio and it got logged as....Entertainment. Just like the Frank Sinatra and Devo records and the Whacky Wake-Up Show.

We used to have a host of 'em, mostly men, who wielded typewriters and microphones like scalpels and engraver's points; we had Buckley on the Right and Gore Vidal on the Left, at least, guys who composed on the fly in their own pedantic battle rap and if I thought they were both wrong on a lot of things, at least I knew what they thought. Their invective was a rapier, not a poisoned bludgeon, even when they were on the verge of fisticuffs. All that's left now is Vidal, who could still whip any ten talking heads at Scrabble, having spotted them the OED. Yeah, I loathe his politics (etc.) but I'll still sit and listen to him talk -- because he can put words together, the right words, properly assembled. Attractively, even. If he wants 'em envenomed, he uses the better grades of venom for the job and applies the stuff with precision.

And we haven't many left who can do that. MSNBC dumped Keith Olbermann, hooray -- and so what? --My concern is, what're they gonna replace him with? (Clone Chris Matthews before his own bile dissolves him from within?)

PS: You want stupid venom on a broad, broad brush? Noam Chomsky says U. S. Republican midterm success means The End Of The World! Great. Let's get t'lootin'! Idiot.

Ha! Better!

I'm not a hundred percent but I neither feel or look like death, badly microwaved back to an approximation of operating temperature. Joint pain and some peripheral neuropathy numbness in my fingers and toes persists, but I think it is getting better. I sure feel better.

A nice breakfast of fried rice (plus quinoa) with bacon, carrot and baby Vidalia onion helped, too. (Saw this while finding the link. I don't care if it's organic or healthy or not what most folks call chili; I can work past that for the sake of the ingredients. Jeepers, it sounds and looks good! Prolly needs a dabba salt or mebbe bacon).

Pithy opinion will follow, though right now the Prairie Home Companion movie is playing on the big living room toooobe* and I am minded how very much better Keillor is in small doses and/or playing in the next room. Man can be charming when he's not throwing out the fun for a pot of message but that seems rarer and rarer.
* Yeah, they finally got me. An online vendor had 42" refurbs at a semi-reasonable price; we got some at work: they have a zillion inputs and and the viewing angle is like 180 degrees. That sold me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I Am Now Protected From Nerve Gas

Also, I'm honester. But I promised Tam she could tell the tale and you'll probably have to wait until tomorrow.

Update: It's tomorrow already. This stuff is named "Bella Alk," which sounds like a vampire with a taste for passed-out winos. The dosage is tiny and small wonder -- generically: Atropine, Hyoscyamine, Scopolamine (all just about the same thing, found on your conjurer's shelf in the henbane, mandrake, datura seed and deadly nightshade section) and Phenobarbital. Down the hatch! Ooooo, spiders.

(By way of explanation, spiders. This also explains why you always hear barking afterward even if there aren't any dogs in your neighborhood. And it is soooo frustrating for the spiders, too).

One Down, Lots More To Go

No, not down down, just outta work and maybe then only until someplace leftier snaps him up.

...Assuming there is one:

Keith Olbermann and MSNBC parted company Friday, in a move described as "abrupt." Couldn't happen to a nicer guy; when it comes to overheated rhetoric, he's more than a match for anyone along the media spectrum.

Word is Comcast decided they'd way rather have him as a remittance man than on the air.

Yes, I'm Still Ill

Update: Emergency Medical Hologram sez, after appropriate thumping, prodding and listening, NOT a kidney infection, NOT influenza, NOT lupus (it's never lupus) and NOT [other exotic television-vectored disease]. "Possibly a stomach virus. We'll treat it symptomatically," and wrote me a 'scrip for anti-nausea meds. My temp was 95 degrees fondly Fahrenheit. She also told me to take my temp every couple of hours and if symptoms persist for the next 48, get to a horse pistol. (One of those big French 11mm revolvers?). Or maybe she said "hospital." Words to live by, I think. Apply Tincture of Time to affected area and wait.

Is it weird that Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili chips are on the short list of food (okay, foodlike items) that taste good to me?

The trip to the doc and Tahr-dzhjett about wore me out.

Original Post: I think today had better be the end of my whistling-in-the-dark that my sickness is merely flu. I'm in really quite a lot of pain, no food sits well on my stomach and other than the extreme chills (they're just minor if I am careful to keep warm) and not actually horking past the first night, I'm not any better. Pain -- in my back and tummy -- is getting worse and with it a freaky effect: touching chilly surfaces is painful.

So, I'll have a quick shower (there are few forces more powerful than vanity!) and see if Tam will drive me to doc-in-a-box.

Isn't this fun?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Deconstructing Dad

If there is an upside to this sick day, it's finally being able to watch the Raymond Scott documentary all the way through.

Raymond Scott, readers will recollect, composed some of the most memorable music heard in Warner brother cartoons -- but he was also an unbergeek, brilliantly creative; he invented the sequencer and was turning out stunning realtime polyphonic electronic music at a time when everyone else playing synth was pounding out a note at a time onto tape, editing and overdubbing to end up with some approximation of music.

...And it is typical of the man that at the same time, he'd invented perhaps the very first dial-up (acoustically-coupled!) home FAX machine; it did him no good, since nobody else had one.*

Personal, moving and filled with odd turns (Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh is the current owner of Scott's self-composing synthesizer, the "Electronium"), I recommend the documentary to anyone with an interest in technology, music and the kinds of people who blossom where they intersect.

* Some wit is going to ask, "How did he know it worked?" Well, gee, if I was a mad genius with a building full of microphones and tape recorders, how would I go about checking something that turned pictures into patterns of sound and back from sound into pictures again? ;)

Freedom Of Speech?

We live in a world where a significant proportion of the population thinks speech that makes them uncomfortable is the same thing as shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre.

And no few of those people are public officials.

After a lunatic with no regard for human life opened fire on a meet-your-congresscritter event in Tucson, killing six people and injuring 14 including U. S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, reaction was mixed. The Left blamed "Tea Partiers" and Sarah Palin; once more was known about the shooter, advocates for the mentally ill reminded us that most crazy people aren't a danger; magazine bans and "safe zones" were proposed and debated and though it all, Gabrielle Giffords lay in a hospital bed, shot through the head, clawing her way back to world. Most bloggers and other commentators deplored the shooting of an American politician, even if they didn't share party affiliation or philosophy.

But not everyone agreed. In less emotionally-charged circumstances, I have used the hyperbolic "Congress. Tree. Rope. Some assembly required," and I am far from the only one.

In Massachusetts, a state that boasts of its commitment to core principles of freedom, a blogger headed his post on the event, "1 down, 534 to go!" and allowed as how he wasn't upset when a Congressbeing was shot.

Uncivil? Tacky? Harsh? --Sure it was. But it was his opinion. He wasn't fomenting sedition; he was engaging in political speech. The sort of thing you might think would be covered by the First Amendment, not to mention the high traditions and constitution of the Commonwealth in which he resides. For example:
Article XVI. The liberty of the press is essential to the security of freedom in a state: it ought not, therefore, to be restrained in this commonwealth. The right of free speech shall not be abridged.
Reaction to his posting was swift; persons disagreeing with his notions organized a boycott of his online business and made critical posts and comments -- as they had every right to do. It was all churning right along, the normal workings of a free society, when--

The police showed up and confiscated all his guns and ammunition. For uttering threats? Well, gee, they didn't actually charge him with anything; they are, they averred, merely investigating the suitability of his having a firearms license. And in the meantime, hand 'em over! (And what does the oldest constitution still in use have to say about that?
Article XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And as, in time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact subordination to the civil authority, and be governed by it.
H'mm. I'm not seeing any limitations on that right, which would leave only the Federal proscription of felons from bearing arms and the blogger in question has not even been charged with a crime.)

Welcome to Massachusetts. Where the exercise of your State and Federally-protected right to free speech can get your State and Federally-protected right to keep and bear arms removed. And heaven knows that couldn't possibly have a chilling effect on one's willingness to speak out.

I want to be very clear: I don't agree with what he wrote. Oh, Congress is a bunch of power-mad ninnies, by and large; I don't think a one of them would be much missed by anyone other than friends and family, but I'd sooner see them voted out, impeached, or rendered impotent by advancing technology. Shooting them sets a bad precedent; one day it's politicians, by the end of the week it'd be dogcatchers and ordinary citizens would follow. It's not a good plan. It's rude.

But you don't muzzle political speech, because that sets a bad precedent, too; it starts out with stepping on bloggers expressing harsh notions and by the end of the week, if your Mom's mass e-mail gripes about the Mayor not getting the snow plowed, she'll have cops at the door wanting to take her shovel away -- and her computer. And government censors at every news outlet, making sure only the most inoffensive and positive news and opinion gets through. The five-year plan has been a glorious success, citizens!

I don't think anyone wants that. Not even in Massachusetts. But maybe I'm wrong. In any event, count me in on the side of freedom:
Maybe you should be, too.

Still Unwell

Yesterday was a long, mostly-unpleasant day. I had to go into work; we didn't have anyone to fill in without cutting into mission-critical activities. (How's that for cryptic?)

Conversely, my primary goal was to supervise riggers. Had plenty of secondary stuff but none of it superhigh priority. It was a good crew; what they needed, mostly, was gates unlocked and the occasional consultation on what next.

So I spent nearly the entire day bundled up and inert. Felt better at noon and went to the supermarket for peanut better and crackers, which turned out to be a bad idea.

By the end of the day, I was miserable again and the roads were a mess. I had been thinking of visiting the instant-doc but decided I only had enough energy to get home.

...And that, as it turned out, was a near thing. Crawled into bed at 5:30 pm in layers of pajamage, turned the electric blanket on, and slept until about a half-hour ago. 12 hours, more or less.

I still don't feel too hot. (Which is funny, since a quick check has me at 101°F) As in there is no comfortable position and I keep walking into walls. At present, the outside temperature is 1°F before wind chill. It's supposed to hit 14 later today and perhaps by then I'll feel good enough to go to the doc. The roads are frozen solid; yesterday's snow (and snow-melt on the major roads) is today's low-friction surface; Tam's Z-3 with its summertime slicks cannot even be considered. So it's my old Hyundai Accent and given its quirks and foibles, that means me at the wheel.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sign Of No

Seen at a project site -- but don't you think Congress could do with one of these?On the other hand and unlike most people, they lack the horse-sense to pay it any mind.

Unclear On The Concept

It turns out that problem with forcing government-run healthcare on us degenerate underclasses is that stupid old-fashioned definition of "freedom."

You know, the one where freedom consists of being left alone? Tut, tut, we are told, "..let us not forget that we as a society created our government to make our choices..."

Y'know, I kinda didn't; nor can I think of a single example where government intervention results in my having more uncoerced choices.

You will not be surprised to learn that this cool, rational philosopher-king is "is director of the Master in Public Health Program at Tufts University School of Medicine." Nor that he considers ending fee-for-service medicine a "must." Oh, boy, gimme a doc enjoying the same employment setup as an IRS auditor; I'm sure she'll be deeply, deeply concerned about my health.

An "Interesting" Night

It was, at times, entertaining. I felt a little bit icky when I went to bed last night; woke up at midnight, with a mouthful of tummy acid, shivering, hands and feet hurting and cold as ice. My dreams had been both vivid and muddled; as I stumbled around finding water, antacid and socks, I managed to wake up both cats and Tam, none of whom were especially amused.

I cranked the electric blanket up another couple of notches and managed to drift off. An hour later, I was awake again. Extremities slightly better but my stomach was decidedly not. Repeated a few times, getting a half or or an hour's sleep each time. Woke up jabbering or with a goofy train of thought every time, too.

The predictable ralphing eventually struck, accompanied by a terrifying temperature spike. But I felt better after; cleaned up and slept for three blissful hours only to wake up an hour early with sore hands, feet, arms and back. But at least I'm pretty much the same temperature all over and it within normal range!

And now to go driving in a snowstorm. Talk about fun.

Not recommended.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"...but it's a good day...."

Gasoline prices took a big jump yesterday, $3.15/gallon up from $2.79[1] -- for once, the day after I filled up my tank -- and this morning, the Local News had to explain to us proles What It All Meant:
Higher prices at the pump, the man with the microphone said, are the price we pay for a recovering global economy. [2]


So, I found myself wondering, they're not the result of pumping zillions of fresh-printed dollars into the "recovering economy" and thereby making each and every one of them worth a bit less? Oooookay.

Bonus point: "Hoosiers will keep on paying for higher fuel prices even away from the pump. More on that 'trickle-down' effect coming up." See, they tolja "trickle-down economics" was baaaad! (And, natch, rubes like us could not possibly grasp that it takes fuel to move, well, everything tangible from point A to point B and we pay for the gas as a part of the price we pay for the tangible item).


(Homework for the curious: compare oil prices to gold prices in various currencies. Betcha they track, with gold generally leading).
1. Yes, you pay more. Unless you pay less.
2. Corrected mispelling "prince" to"price".


As a piece of music, it's competent pop, competently performed and a bit outside my usual musical tastes; the (minimal) sets and costumes are properly evocative and hairstyles are spot-on. But the choreography, while incorporating modern elements that might have been too hot for the screen in their day, does a spectacularly good job of building from period-appropriate moves for each of seven different decades.

I stumbled over it channel-surfing.

It's worth watching. If you have to, play it with the sound off; but do play it. Dance is an element very rarely done right in "historical" film and this four-minute video manages to do it.

Quoth Wikipedia: "The music video for the song has received critical acclaim and praise for its homage to musical icons of the past such as Josephine Baker, Dorothy Dandridge,The Andrew Sisters, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Janet Jackson and TLC. Hilson appears as each singer in a well-known scene from the era depicted."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Large Hadron Collider Still Fails To Destroy Earth

We're all not DOOMED! DOOOOOMED!

...It's a been a good few days for doom. Or, in this case, imaginary doom averted, as the LHC stubbornly refuses to spit out microscopic black holes or even jawbreaker-size ones, let alone Xerum-525.

Wotta let down. All it does is science.


California Is DOOMED

Leave now, while there's still time: "California faces the risk of a massive 'superstorm' that could flood a quarter of the state's homes and cause $300 billion to $400 billion in damage. [...] Such a superstorm is hypothetical but not improbable...."

Hypothetical dangers: something to which CA public officials have proven themselves unusually sensitive. Residents of the central valley may find themselves being preemptively evacuated -- or required to purchase a rubber raft.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Words: Aw, Watta They Mean, Really?

Network News reporter, at a "swimming pool" type research reactor: "The actual core is about 25 feet down. It glows with an incandescent blue light."

No. No, you ninny, it glows all right, and it's even blue. (See also here). But the core is not incandescent. If it ever became incandescent, well, you had better hope it's a very conservative design with plenty of water -- and you'd better hold your breath while you run for the door; the steam's liable to be "hot" as well as hot. Gosh, I hope that wasn't your favorite suit?

Maybe you'd better just preemptively hit the bar. --Pity the report was from inside Iran.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


...I'm going to start circulating a petition ask the EPA to classify all current U. S. Senators as "toxic mold."

Remember, you need a good surfactant, not bleach.

Good Morning!

It better be a good morning, if it know what's good for it. --Cold, which I loathe; with every year, I come to a better understanding of why people retire to warm climates.

There's a gun show this morning, a BlogMeet this afternoon and you'll find a propaganda poster from the Hidden Frontier at I Work On A Starship. If there's not something in all that to amuse you, you'd better find a book.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Do Not RUN

30 GOTO 10
40 END

Just promise me the offspring won't be allowed to run wild. Kthxbye.

(Cybrus suggests an expansion, thusly:
40 GOTO 10
100 END
I have to point out that if you encounter an immortal kangaroo, you're still stuck in a loop. Also it requires a non-standard version of BASIC.)

It has been suggested that this is cleaner programming:

(...identical to beta s/w from here to END...)

Huck: AHA!

Most tabbies have a nice "M" on their foreheads; Huck has this instead:
Λ||Λ It takes very little imagination to see his eyes light up at the sight of prey (toy mice, hands, wadded-up paper, shadows, pure imagination) and realize that it says "Λ||Λ" indeed!

If you were ever minded to categorize your cat by coloring and pattern, I Can Has Cheezeburger offers the definitive chart. I think Rannie is a brown-patched torby. Huck's a cream tuxedo tabby, pink nose and paw pads and all.

Mission: Untable!

This Table Will Self-Destruct: an actual product. Oh, possibly a little too self-aware of its own ironic-hipness (see second illus.) but you've got to love the label.

Somehow appropriate to my day.

Hallo, Brain?

[SFX: Alarm clock beeping]
Brain? Brain? Are you there? Are you awake?
::incoherent mumbling::
::Whazzit awreddy? Y'up?::
Damn thing. I think the carburettor's clogged. Paid good money for it, too.

Here's a poster to tide you over, readers. I've gotta go have a little talk with my brain; it seems to think it's got the day off.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pride Precedeth A Stumble

In the wake of the Arizona shootings, a lot of gunbloggers have been reporting on attempted gun-control moves and fact-bending, anti-gun pontificating, chortling at the ineffectuality of the gunbanner crowd.

(My personal fave is the outrage over Joe Zamudio, the armed Arizonan who ran towards the sound of shots; he took the safety off his sidearm but did not draw it, let alone aim, while telling the guy he saw holding a gun -- not the shooter but another bystander who'd disarmed the shooter -- to drop it For most lamestream pundits, this equates to "almost shot the wrong guy." I wonder if any of them realize that on that basis, they were probably "almost shot" last time they got a speeding ticket? Do they think Officer Friendly always rests his right hand on the butt of his gun?)

So, lotta sound and fury on the ijit box, lotta snotty editorials in the birdcage liner, and we're mostly snickering, "They're losing!"

Nope, they've been losing. That tide can turn. Most of the NE is still hostile to self-defense, New Jersey still treats civilian firearm ownership as barely legal, Illinois is firmly in the hands of the anti's and in California, the slow noose continues to tighten. Arizona had just got Constitutional Carry; if you don't think this shooting will be used against it ('cos crazy people always think, "Oh, I mustn't carry this gun without a permit, let alone shoot anyone!), you haven't been paying attention.

...And paying attention is what we must be doing. Local news media interviewed (in)famous gunstore owner Don Davis (he's happily stocking up on 30-round Glock mags); rather than express my opinion, you should do a search on YouTube for Don's Guns, or drop in and compare prices. He's reliable fuel for the antis.

We've got to stay in the game. It's fun to laugh at the civilian disarmament crowd but they're not defeated yet.

Ever Had One Of Those Days?

I've been having one all week. I try not to whine about it but I have had a more-or-less constant headache since the autumn of 1996 and the last couple of weeks, thanks in part to weather and in part from some dental work -- she rebuilt a tooth, very pretty but not quite the same shape, which is a big problem if you grind your teeth in you sleep. Add in what the cold does to my knee and my pain level's been pretty high all week. This makes me short-tempered and no fun to be around -- heck, I don't wanna hang around me -- and it's all downhill from there. Getting anything done is like running in a nightmare:, huge effort for little progress.

Cherry on top: halfway through previous paragraph, my headache ramped up to the stabbing-pains-behind-both-eyes, all light is too bright level. A hot shower will help a little, as will the OTC pain meds I took when I got up. This kind of thing used to worry me -- fifteen years and endless doctoring later, I am confident it's just another damn headache. So, hey, that's actually something good.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You Thought You Knew

You probably always thought the person who told us, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,"* was some expert. Maybe a 1930s nutritionist reporting on Dust Bowl families; or perhaps it was one of the late-19th Century health-food types who gave us Graham crackers and corn flakes?

Um, no.

It would be Kafka.

Franz Kafka. The surrealist writer, possibly best known for the story of a man who turns into a cockroach.

"Most important meal of the day," hey? It most certainly is if it keeps one from going...buggy.
* Today: bacon, eggs, V-8, coffee, half a pink grapefruit sprinkled with just a little confectioner's sugar 'cos it's gooood -- and a strawberry in the center.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Indy BlogMeet!

The very next one will be this weekend: 3:00 pm Sunday, 16 January 2011 at Broad Ripple Brew Pub -- where you can, among other things, get "the full English." Breakfast, that is. Yum!

Signed Book Update

I have been busy with various "real"-world activities (researching Life Among The Mundanes, maybe? Mostly, annoying accountants, which is a perfectly terrible thing) and it has taken me longer than expected to work out costs.

Here's an Easter Egg for readers who like SF: there are a bunch of fanzines available online!

Back to autographed & personally inscribed editions of I Work On A Starship: The most dependable method within the U.S. will be a flat-rate Priority Mail box. $5.20 covers all postage & packaging costs and I'll ask $16 for the book. (I've had their flat-rate envelopes break in processing and there is nothing worse than receiving an empty envelope in a Post Office "Ooopsie!" plastic bag). Media Mail is a couple dollars cheaper but by the time I come up with envelopes, etc., the costs are equal and it takes longer.

Update: My book's on! --I make about three cents from Amazon sales, btw. But hey, it's show biz! ;)

I'll be contacting the lucky winners of the first round of books this evening. I have a list of names for the secnd round but three of you -- Chuck K, Gerry and Anonymous (!) -- need to e-mail me at roberta (dot) x (at) sbcglobal (dot) net: I don't have your e-mail addys. (Blogger takes it when you post a comment, but it doesn't show it to me!)

If you already have a copy and would like it signed, contact me and I'll arrange for you to send it to Roseholme Cottage with an SASE.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

White Death™

It's heeeere!

Forsooth, not here here, not quite yet; when I look out the windows of Roseholme Cottage, there's not a flake falling. But the flakes inside my TV set are, as they do anytime the forecast calls for more than a spatter of snow, sounding the tocsin of doom, doom, doom!

Because it's wintertime and there's snow falling. Yeah, who'd've expected that? Schools and prayer meetings are cancelling left and right; when I woke up at Oh-Dark-Fifteen, the list already had over three dozen entries.

You'd think they'd all be driving 4WDs to work, wouldn't you, or maybe snowmobiles; and yet when you drive past the parking lots of the big TV stations, it looks like a gaggle of plain ordinary cars any other bunch of downtown office workers might drive.

On the other hand, from what I saw on the toooob this morning it sure looked like a lot of 'em came into work early today. That, surprisingly enough, might be good common sense when there's several inches of snow in the offing.

Don't judge 'em by what they say. Judge 'em by what they do. Guy goes on the tellymavision to tell me the sky is falling, I'm gonna look to see if he's wearing a hard hat before I take him seriously.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Thought I had an idea for a post but it evaporated; I still don't know why they call that building complex in Bethesda, Maryland the "Air Rights Center," though looked at in the proper light, it's a ("Nope, sorry, sir, you missed the payment deadline. No air rights for the next two weeks -- and no fair trying to hold your breath!")

Doesn't seem to be in in line with the approach for an airport. Old terrestrial microwave path, maybe? Buildings have had to design around them for years and D.C. had plenty. It's a thought. They're certainly not saying on their website. I'm told there's a biking/walking path that runs right under the place!

Update: Per comments, that rails-to-trails path should have been a hint: the buildings were built in the "air rights" over a railway. (Plus enough land for the foundation.) Some people do manage to build real castles in the air! Must've been like working in an old newspaper building when a freight train rumbled through.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Don't You Wish You Were Us? Dept.

Made corned beef brisket for dinner, with boiled taters and some onion and carrot in the pot for taste.

This is non-cooking cooking -- start the brisket in water with spices as desired (applewood-smoked black pepper, cilantro and marjorom, on a whim); once it boils, turn the fire way, waaaayyy down, cover and pointedly ignore for the next three hours. At about the 2:30 mark, add carrots and onion to the meat, then wash, quarter and cook the potatoes separately (bring to boil, simmer, just like the meat). When the timer dings, kill heat under the beef and let it sit for at least ten minutes, then slice and serve steaming hot. Season potatoes to taste, with veggies from the meat broth added.

Tam added a dash of sauerkraut and a dill pickle for zing and color, took a taste of the meat and went for her camera. I guess it came out okay, then.
Prep time is what, two minutes? Attention during cooking, practically zero. You do have to start with a decent corned brisket but they're plentiful and (relatively) cheap this time of year.

Cell Coverage No Good? Tough.

Eric S. Raymond:
[Over the last ten years] "...the carriers have been losing money to the tune of about 1% of ROIC, but with the losses largely masked by inflation."
[Huge snip]
"From the financial-minimax point of view, the cell buildout is done. We won’t see dramatic coverage improvements before a technological break that dramatically lowers cost per square mile covered."

RTWT. And consider the additional pressures from "Net Neutrality" and the FCC push for more wireless bandwidth. Something's gotta give.

Short Takes

- The best part about doing most of the cooking is that it's nice and warm by the stove. Roseholme Cottage is a 1924 frame structure. Half the windows are original and the only insulation I'm sure it's got is in the attic: when the outside temperature is in the teems, it gets cold indoors.

- Thirty seconds of a TV chat show, husbands and wives share their secrets; hubby admits he has thought about other women during sex. His deaar wife is fine with that, telling him, "I understand; I have done exactly that myself." Um, ooookay then. I'm not asking; please stop telling.

- Huck the cat is a single-action biter: if you play-fight with him, he'll hold his toothy little mouth open, ready to bite if your hand or the toy comes within range. Rannie Wu is more of a double-action biter, a Moray Cat: annoy her and she will lie in wait, composed and serene until you're close enough to lunge and snap at!

The House Read...

...The Constitution the other day, or at least followed it up to their turn to read a section aloud. They did not read all of it; they left out most of things changed by subsequent Amendments, including the "three-fifths compromise," by which slaves were counted as 3/5 of a citizen* and the requirement that "No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due."

This irked James E. Clyburn, who called it "revisionist history." Of course, as a Representative since 1993 and former Majority Whip, you'd think he was in a pretty good position to read those sections out loud himself, perhaps getting even more attention if he'd had to read them out of their actual order.

Nope; he chose to be miffed about it to the WaPo, referring to the "living document" and how the House members should've "talked about how this country wrestled with things like race and gender." But sir, they did; were you paying attention? Your peers read, out loud and officially, the 13th, 14th and 19th Amendments -- which were the "living document" results of "wrestling with race and gender."

Which one might think a Congressman would know. Wouldn't you?
* Count your blessings, if being counted is a blessing: some of my ancestors fell under "excluding Indians not taxed," and were not even fractionally counted. I missed learning if they read that part. Of course, my ancestors later decided to become taxable citizens instead of walking of Oklahoma, too.

The Blood Dancers

Mr. Helmke, Mr. Sugarmann, they are already dancing in the blood of six dead people; they were doing it before the final tally was even known and name of the step is "Guns're Baaaaaad."

They seem to think it would have been all right had the disturbed young man drove into the crowd in a car, or if he'd mixed up a batch of poison gas, or set bombs; they would have felt quite comfortable had he doused people with gasoline and thrown a match and their words imply had he only had the compassion and consideration to stride through the crowd swinging a sledge hammer at people's skulls, why, his death-and-maiming toll might even have been slightly smaller.

Or even bigger. I haven't mentioned anything that hasn't been done, mostly using items you can pick up at the hardware store of the nearest Wally World or steal from its parking lot without permit, ID or background check, right down to the makings for a cloud of phosgene-esque gas. That would be okay with the blood-dancers; it is what they want. Just as long as he didn't use a g-u-n.

Tam points put that in such situations, people go with their old familiar lares and penates. And worse besides: we look for patterns; we want it to mean something. I hopped on a bandwagon yesterday for a few minutes, wondering if the shooter wasn't someone reacting to the congresswoman's strong stance against illegal entry to the U.S. -- I was wrong, too.

Looking back over high-profile political assassinations in this country, both successful and attempted, I can come up with two or three where the political motivation is clearly a bigger factor than the shooter being crazy. --Along with page after page of wild theorizing, after-the-fact amateur detective work, innuendo and cloud-watching about each and every one. The reality is, in this country, such acts tend to be about as planned and purposeful as being hit by a bolt of lighting out of a partly-cloudy sky.

Another reality is, when it happens, humans will snatch at the merest wisp of pattern or hint of meaning; we want to know why and we're almost never satisfied with "the dice came up that way."

But they do. You -- and everyone else -- will roll them every day of your life. Public figures face (mildly) worse odds than you or I; Federal politicians even more so. They read about Lincoln and McKinley, Truman and Kennedy same as you did. They stood for election just the same.

Bad things happen. The only part of it you have effective control over is your reaction to them.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

This Is Bad

A U.S. Congresswoman's been shot in Tucson during a public appearance at a Safeway supermarket. Several other people were also shot, possibly as many as a dozen total. Shooter said to be in custody.

Not a whole lot more showing up online right now. Count on the blood-dancers having a field day with this. --And dig hard for the facts; we're talking a Democrat politician getting shot in a Constitutional carry state, there's going to be a whole lot of opinionating and half-witted guesswork, not all of it obvious.

Update: Oh, this is full of fail; the Congresswoman, Gabrielle Gifford, had taken a brick through her office front window back around the time some folks were calling for it. MSNBC has already linked to their interview with her soon after it happened. Better listen to it; she was loyal footsoldier for her party but comes across as a very fair-minded pol nonetheless.

Update 2: Chief Richard Kastigar with the Pima County Sheriff's Department has confirmed that 12 people were shot at a Safeway Store near Oracle and Ina. No detail on the Congresswoman's condition; said to be alive and in surgery as of 2:45 EST.

Update 3: Unsupported word is that one Jared Laughner or Loughner is in custody, suspected of being the shooter. A fellow of the same name has a YouTube channel with...curious stuff on it. Think John L. Hinkley curious. Well, almost the same name; the YouTube guy just happens to list three full names, for those of you who collect such Harvey-Earl coincidences.

Publishing And Writing

Two very different skill sets. Results vary. Interests vary, and for more reasons than mere mechanics; ask any writer who's had to do a book tour just how much energy they would choose to spend on self-promotion vs. actually writing, then extrapolate that to having to do every step but feeding the press yourself. There are good reasons for dividing that labor.

Larry Correia did a great job on his self-published first novel. His subsequent works from a bigtime pro publisher benefit, I strongly suspect, from his attention to detail and understanding of the process. SF and fantasy -- perhaps especially his style, a cross between Travis McGee, Doc Savage and Unknown -- is pure-dee hell to proofread unless you're hip to it.

M. Z. Williamson probably does his first drafts longhand and works 'em over into fast-moving narratives by hand; he's published by one of the big guys, too, and I'd bet his MS is pretty error-free.

Typesetting these days is a lot more GIGO than it used to be.

Me, I struggle; even in the second edition, I'm catching mistakes. I like my writing but by the fourth time through, readin' that stuff gets to be real work.

On the other hand, Carl Bussjaeger writes interesting stories and turns out as clean and well-formatted a manuscript as the first two guys cited...and A) his publisher has yet to send Check One plus B) they didn't properly reformat for publication. I know this because reading Net Assets the book is like reading over Carl's shoulder with added typesetting typos. Simple stuff, straightforward stuff that even I know as standards in the biz, like the _italicize_ convention or closing paragraph breaks, he did as it should be done and they failed at. (They did even worse besides, like omitting intros and entire stories; his reaction to seeing one book -- The Anarchists -- was "I am appalled.") He's had about the worst luck I've ever seen when it comes to getting into print and then his publisher upped and died.

The widow's not being helpful, either; grief or whatever, it's small consolation to the guy left holding the bag.

So he's doing the next better thing: Bargaining Position, the sequel to Net Assets, can be yours for $5.00, free, though hitting Carl's tip jar would not be remiss (ahem!); the download which gets you the Word .doc file. I don't know if e-readers will cope with that but turning it into a PDF is a pretty darned fast process, not to mention simple.

Take a look. It's enough to have even me pondering a Nook or a Kindle.

(I'm very sorry to read in comments that he's done with writing. Dammit. D'jever notice how the best ice-cream shops go out of business in what feels like much too short a time? His referenced last piece is a depressingly perceptive market analysis of libertarianism; right as he is, I can't change my spots: I was born with 'em).

Why I'm A Gunnie

I've made a couple of firearms posts recently (and about time!), to which at least one aggrieved comment has been made.

Chill. I'm not an expert -- we have one here at Roseholme, who will assure you I'm so very not -- and I didn't even start out as a shooter.

I grew up with guns in the house, a .22 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun -- and I was taught how to handle them and shoot them at an early age, just as my siblings were. My Dad was a good shot and had excellent habits when it came to gun safety, but he wasn't a gunnie; he was a hunter. A child of the Great Depression, he wasn't even a plinker. He took a shot if he had game in his sights, a squirrel or a deer, or he didn't shoot. (He had obviously done a lot of backyard shooting growing up, or he wouldn't've been that good, but Dad apparently thought that range shooting was a game for youngsters).

After I moved out on my own, I didn't own guns. Didn't give the mater much thought, either, until I ran into L. Neil Smith's fiction. I'd read Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress in Jr. High and had identified as a "Rational Anarchist" ever since, but L. Neil had a whole package to sell and provided pointers to real-world examples. ...And I still didn't own guns. They were expensive and I was stuffed with misinformation about Indiana's License To Carry Handgun, and there was the little matter an arrest record stemming from the time I showed up at a bar where a fight was in progress just enough ahead of the police that I was running out when they were running in (turns out if you bump into a LEO and keep going when told, "Stop!" they just naturally give chase and sort it out later), which I thought barred me from owning a gun. By then, I wanted one; I was convinced that self-defense was not just a right but a responsibility, but I thought I'd lost my chance at the single most effective means of so doing.

I learned better from my ex; he bought me a handgun for my birthday (Beretta 9000) and despite the limitations (fat as a running shoe, tiny grasping area on the slide and mine was DAO), I was hooked from my first trip to the range. An LTCH application soon followed and I bought my first handgun before I'd even got the little pink card back. I've shot a lot since then and managed to shoot quite a wide variety of guns. I'm good with my hands, so I've had most of 'em apart and back together, too. I even put the fancy Cylinder & Slide lockwork in my .38SA 1911.

But I'm no expert. I didn't even start out as a gun hobbyist: politics drove my initial interest. I'm just someone who shoots. When I render an opinion, it's just my opinion, YMMV, dealer prep and destination charge are extra. If you want expert advice about firearms, you should ask the other spinster of Roseholme Cottage.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Nom, Nom, Nom

Last weekend, when Brigid, Turk, Tam and I stopped by Penzey's Spices, I picked up a recipe for Parkey Stew. It starts with leeks and carrots plus kielbasa, crushed tomatoes and cabbage, cooked up in chicken broth. Garlic, marjoram and caraway seeds season it. Quick to make -- saute the root veggies, then add tomatoes, broth and meat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.

I've been meaning to try it and tonight was the night. I substituted a little; the superdupermarket has fresh uncooked kielbasa instead of the summer-sausage-looking stuff you usually find, so it got sauteed with a little head start on the carrots and leeks and I cut back the olive oil a bit. I used purple cabbage 'cos I had it, scaling the amount back to about 2/3 and went with half again as much broth as it the recipe calls for.

Marvelous! The cabbage kept a lot of color; the broth is a kind of rich, golden brown, dotted with bright-orange carrots and yummy-looking slices of sausage. It looks great, smells like heaven and tastes better. (UPS man showed up halfway through dinner, took a deep breath and said, "Something smells great! What's for dinner?")

Claimed to make enough to serve 8 to 10. Or, as it turns out, two bowls apiece for two very hungry bloggers with about one bowl left over; we didn't have any side dishes with it. Just the thing for a cold, snowy afternoon.

Up Early/Observations

It's almost too early for coherent thought. Here, instead, some odds and ends:

- In my "Gun-Bashing" post, I failed to point out one of Tam's observations, which is that "1911" is a category of guns encompassing everything from the finest bespoke models to slag-guns stamped out and indifferently assembled in third-world countries while the usual "compared to" will be a single model of gun by a single company. It's not valid unless you're willing to specify which 1911. And while the amount of work and high-end parts one can put into a 1911 is often cited as a drawback, the reality is that there are few other families of guns* where that's even possible.

- A telephone conversation with "Shootin' Buddy" led to the notion of Attorney General paper dolls, complete with fancy uniform, corncob pipe and a list of guns to ban; and Prosecutor dolls for the AG to boss around (hint: that's not actually how it works), with accessories like crowbars and mixed drinks. Oh, the innocent fun! (And despite the custom by which the Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court addresses both the U. S. AG and Solicitor General as "General," it's not a rank; the form of the title comes to us from long-defunct Law French: as the government's primary legal eagle, the AG acts with a general power of attorney for it. Period. --Now someone's gonna argue that a General, a "general officer," was originally an officer of such a high degree of training, knowledge and competence that he could be dropped in anywhere, but that notion ended not very long after Napoleon. If not earlier).

- The only thing worse than blindly reading from a TeleprompTer is trying to adlib from the scant few words visible on the device at any given time. Watching TV with the closed captions on, you are often (but not always) seeing two of the four or five lines the person on the screen sees and you can watch them go right over the cliff. I'm betting most don't review the script in advance. Line! Oh, dear.
* Interestingly enough, first among those few would be, yes, Glock; at one point, you could just about build a "Glock" that had no parts made by Glock in it -- and even use a metal frame!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

IMPD: Not Always In Trouble

While Tam and I -- not to mention the local media -- have made much of the very public failings and foibles of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, both as an institution and individual officers, the many good things done by the majority of local police who show up every day clean, sober and honest tend to pass by unremarked.

Nor is all of that work much like what television and newspapers might lead you to expect. For instance, my commute to and from the Skunk Works take me through a hardscrabble neighborhood on the near Northside and both Monday and Tuesday night, as I approached the light at College and Fairview Ave.,* I saw the red/blue lights of Indy's Finest, parked in the Southbound lane. Waiting at the stoplight each night, I saw an officer wrestling a manhole cover back into position! Tuesday night, a female officer about my size was struggling with the thing and as the light changed, a citizen was approaching at a jog, clearly intent on helping.

Last night, one of the utilities or maybe the street department was busy replacing the entire assembly.

Think of it. There's no excitement to it, no recognition in the offing. It's hard, dangerous work; the manhole in question is well out in the intersection and even a police car all lit up is only a shield in one direction. I suppose there's self-interest in putting the cover back, since the first time someone drops a wheel in that opening, it's almost certainly going to end in a 911 call, but avoiding the bother is hardly worth the effort involved in manhandling a heavy hunk of steel the care and feeding of which the city has a whole other department for. Nope, those IMPD officers were out there clearing the road 'cos that is what they do. It's hard, dirty and dangerous and they show up and do it every day.

It makes me even more annoyed at the halfwits that give their department a bad name. The good guys deserve some recognition, more than they get.
* More than a lifetime ago, my maternal grandfather had an office in the building on the Southeast corner of that intersection; he did time and motion studies for industry. Back then, there was a drugstore with a soda fountain on the Southwest corner, where his son and daughters could do time and motion studies of various ice cream-based treats. Just a vacant lot there now. I'm not sure if that neighborhood is on the way up or down right now, but it hasn't given up yet.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

New Chapter at I Work On A Starship


Even before the rain, it didn't look good. Oh, there were some pluses: we had not found the possible major booby-trap by getting ourselves exploded, for instance; and Aberstwyth proper was on the far side of the port's high, hollow-square berm. But blowing a big hole in the ground and spraying radioactives around is something of a social gaffe, even on the Far Edge — and even more so in a place where they have already had an overlarge share of flaming death from above. Run that by the force multiplier of what appeared to be mixed public opinion regarding the NATO worlds and.... What I said before. Didn't look good.

Read the rest at this link.

I Work On A Starship Book

I have received five copies of the revised edition of I Work On A Starship; I can sell them, autographed, for $17.00 plus postage, though I am saving two back already. Any interest?

(If you already have a copy, I'll autograph 'em for the cost of return postage).

The top and bottom margins ended up a bit wide; it's not bad but I hope to do better with the Ka-Blam! edition.

In related news, I should be able to post a new chapter in the current story arc soon!

And Now For Something Different

Ever hear of:

--The patriotic hardwood furniture maker in Toronto that will build your design in 24 hours: Oak In A Day!

--Rubber pajama bottoms for incontinent European handgun designers: Walther PPJs!

--Member of a libertarian religious order for women: Nun of the Above!

--You can buy these:Silly company, Tam's a cracker with good taste, not the other way 'round!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Senator Goldwater Was Right

It only needed restatement: "A government powerful enough to pay you for being out of work is powerful enough the screw up the process!"

Indiana's Department of Workforce Development website, where the unemployed file to get their cash cards filled back up -- and where they must file for extensions quarterly -- bogged down over the holiday weekend and was still jammed up Monday. Result? No way to tell if that magic card had so much as the price of pack of Twinkies in it without slogging to the 7-11 and finding out. Oh, and no way for extension procrastinators to file by the deadline, either. Oopsie!

Yessirree, made of win all 'round, all right. --And holding up a sign by the freeway is starting look like a less-vulnerable alternative.

Antique Collectible Cherishable Typewriter For Sale

Harlan Ellison's selling his first typewriter. The man needs the money. (Consider that). --A Remington Noiseless, nice machine but they do require a heavy hand; I'd sell it, too.

He has an interesting speech pattern in the interview. Either that, or interestingly transcribed. From what I've heard and seen of the man, perhaps a little of both. I was surprised to realize he's 76. Where does the time go?

Oh, the asking price? $40K!

(Link shamelessly stolen from Turk Turon)

Monday, January 03, 2011

Traffic Generator: Pistol-Bashing

Resolved: the Glock is a graceless, ugly sidearm, not especially well-balanced. While dependable, the family of weapons has an unpleasant trigger and offers the primary virtue of being equally clumsy in any shooter's hands.

If you can shoot well with a Glock, you'll shoot well with anything else -- and if you were me, you'd favor the latter choice.

Sure, the 1911 is an old, old design; but "new" "plastic" and "ugly" does not necessarily add up to "better. " Lighter on the belt, which I guess counts if you think of a handgun as a sort of elaborate concho.

After the small spate of 1911-bashing posts, I thought it was only fair to get in some licks for the traditional side. --Y'know what else is different about a cocked-and-locked 1911? You can't get an ND with a single ill-favored twig through the trigger guard!

The Place Where Australia Used To Be?

I don't believe it. Sure, they're saddled with crummy firearms laws, but Australians are generally at least as cross-grained as we are in the States, albeit in their own special way.

Neither nation is free from outliers and somehow they're around when reporters come to call. In a story on the terrible floods afflicting parts of the island continent, this bowing of the head: "A policeman came along in a car with a gun on his hip who said 'You be out of here by five o'clock or else'," he said. "When a man with a gun talks to you like that, you get out."

No, dammit, you spit in his eye; or you have the mother-wit to realize if you stay, you might have swim for your life later, and you miles from the nearest body of water, which leads you do what the nice officer wants because it's the sensible thing to do, not 'cos he happens to have a sidearm holstered at his belt.

Or you 'fess up to being a trained seal. Sigh.


My sympathy to Australians having to deal with this mess, which is flooding out not only entire towns but (among other things) coal mining operations in the state of Queensland. It's a big enough coal operation that the flooding is likely to affect coal prices worldwide; readers who were thinking this merely picturesque news from a safely distant locale should think again.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Huck At Play

Turk Turon, videographer:

...And that's little Huck relaxed!

Movie Review: True Grit

I was prepared to hate it. Could they really, really do any better than an overweight, one-eyed John Wayne, reins in his teeth and a six-gun in each mitt,* growling, "Fill yer hand, you sonovab!tch!" It seemed unlikely.

I was wrong. The big-name actors dissolve into their characters in a manner seldom seen and the actress who plays Mattie does the same. Even in the 1969 film, the very strong story (from the Charles Portis novel) overshadowed the actors; the Coen Brothers production revels in it (and perhaps they should, given what passes for a plot in many recent films).

More penny dreadful than character study -- but a marvelous penny dreadful! -- True Grit is a well-produced, satisfying film, right down to the iconic scene.

It's a treat for a gunnie, too: remembering the original film (he must've had Dardicks) , I was counting Rooster Cogburn's shots. Two six-guns -- and, yep, ten shots.

Worth seeing in the theatre; sets and scenery, photography and attention to detail help make the film a gem.
* Except he didn't. Commenter Tony Muhlenkamp correctly pointed out that The Duke had a revolver in one hand and a repeating rifle in the other. So now I have to hunt up the clip and count his shots.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

The Telephone Menace

From Nature for November, 1889, via Wondermark:

"The telephone is the most dangerous of all because it enters into every dwelling. Its interminable network of wires is a perpetual menace to life and property. In its best performance it is only a convenience. It was never a necessity."

RTWT. Y'know, telegrams and e-mail have a lot in common....

Oh My Head plus Professional Dissing

Had a perfectly delightful New Year's last night, driven to speakeasy kind of dining establishment by a handsome fellow in a black suit with black shirt and black tie, in a steely-gray Crown Vic of the sort that murmurs "Authorized Vehicle."

Good company, good food, fine adult beverages....

...And woke up, exhausted, well before the dawn with a head like a jackhammer, over the bone-deep pain of a migraine. What to do, what to do? Made a few orbits of the house and inspiration struck: migraine was one-sided. I stuck a coldpack in my pillow, laid down on that side and was blissfully asleep in minutes. Drastic but effective.


Woke up later this morning to see a TV reporter interviewing one of the organizers of a local New Year's Day run; she remarked pointedly on what a cold day it was (well above freezing)...which point the organizer addressed with studied mildness, "Oh, no, this is the best weather we've had in years. You'd warm right up if you were moving." Zing!


I still need coffee, Vitamin I and a shower before I'll feel entirely human.