Wednesday, October 31, 2012

So Wrong, But...

     I just can't help it.

     Did you see the news conference with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and President Obama?  Did you realize how much -- how amazingly much -- they resemble Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy?

     (To both men's credit, they weren't blaming each other.  And why should they?  Post-Katrina, you will never see the Feds treat calamitous weather in a casual or routine way.  Especially in an election year.)

Oh The Horror (Geesh)

No sooner had Indiana's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate thrown his head at his opponent than the Dems started throwing it back; he's now become The Devil in other races including various House battles and, most strikingly, the contest over the Governor's office.  At one point, Republican (and, to be fair, very Religious-Right) Mike Pence -- who was quick to speak out against what Mr. Mourdock had said -- faced only genial joshing from Democrat also-ran (and, to be fair, not actually a walrus, despite what you may have heard) John Gregg; now ads for Gregg open with Mourdock's voice intoning, "...even in that horrible situation of rape, it is something God intended to happen..." and then a worried-sounding female voice exhorts voters to "Stop the Tea Party!  Vote for John Gregg!"

     Oh, that's appealing. I have noted with interest partisan efforts to paint the various persons and small groups energized by Rick Santelli's impassioned rant on CNBC as some sort of sweeping, Margaret-Atwoodian-nightmare conspiracy to keep women barefoot and pregnant and minorities just barefoot -- and I have found it fascinating that the very people uttering strident warnings about a movement that is, at its core, economic rather than social are also the first to chide the public about "the politics of fear."  --Except the fear they're selling, that is.

     Rule of thumb: any time any Party, group or individual keeps pushing the "fear these horrid people" button with loaded words urging immediate action, they're trying to stampede the public.  The bunch you're being urged to fear may or may not be "mean, nasty ugly-looking people," but you can be darned sure the group waving the bloody shirt doesn't want you to stop and think things through.

     Social Conservatives and the various and sundry "Tea Party" groups are not the same thing.  They're not even all that uniform among themselves.  Go read up on the candidates; it's fun to just let the PACs and Parties slap tags on 'em, love the ones you've been told are loveable and hate the ones portrayed as loathsome, but you're mere moldable putty in the hands of your would-be masters if you take that easy course.

     Do your darned homework.

     Oh, and Rick Santelli?  You know what else he said?  "I want the new [Obama] administration to win this one," Santelli said. "We are all Americans. ... It's a question whether spending our children's money is going to make us win or not, or is it going to take its own time to heal, like a cold going away?"  What set him ranting him was the policy, not the person.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Feds Declare NYC A Disaster Area!

...About A Hundred Years After Rest Of Country Came To The Same Conclusion.

     All kidding aside, my thoughts are with everyone in the area getting hit by Sandy.  They can cope -- pick on NYC and the coastal states (PA counts, too!) all you like, but they've proven they dig in and deal with it when the chips are down.  This will be the worst they've seen in decades and recovery may be a lot longer than anyone in the brainless media expects.  (Look for whining on the network morning shows, along with brave promises to "hold out as long as the better hotels and network cafeteria remain open."  OMG, Matt, they're out of your brand of bottled water.)

     Here in the Midwest, all we are getting so far are very high winds -- and with most of the local power utilities having sent off emergency relief crews to the East, that could yet be a problem.  (H'mm, the modern "efficient and lean" arrangement of keeping maintenance crews small and moving them around when needed may not have taken really big event into account.  I may yet be wishing I'd bought a little genset.)

Quote Of The Presidential Election Year

Dustbury, anent the Electoral College and What It Do:

"I’m getting to the point where I would much rather everyone were vaguely dissatisfied with the system as it is than have some ecstatically happy at the expense of everyone else."

     Y'see, kids, a republic is a lousy form of government -- and all the other forms are even worse, many of them by huge margins.  Ours? You're not supposed to like it, just not be too frikkkin' inconvenienced by it.  Which is the point of most of goofier-looking parts of our system.  Read the whole thing.  And then get back to work, dammit!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Oh! The Insensitivity!

Calling it "Hurricane Sandy" -- and it only has one good eye!


From the I Did Not Know The World Worked Like That file:

Pride Goeth Before A Fall; Elections Arrive During Them

     Dispirited though I am by the "choices" (and by the lack of coverage the few real choices receive -- Rupert Boneham exempted), it would be unfair (or at least unsporting) to pass by the poor ol' dead windmill without tilting at it a little.

     My favorite contest is a de-selection of State Supreme Court Justices.  Two of them are on the bubble and there's a way to send a very clear message: Justice Robert Rucker wrote a strong dissent to the dreadful majority decision that claimed a police "right" to enter your home on any grounds -- or none at all -- and denied your right to resist.  Conversely, Justice Steven H. David wrote the decision itself, and defended it by saying you could always sue for redress.  Justice Rucker should be retained; Justice David should be sent home.  With a note from the electorate explaining that he has been a Very Bad Boy.

     Then there are the other contests -- for Governor, the current front-runner is the urbane $DEITY-botherer Mike Pence who, sly nods and winks to his fellow-worshippers aside, is reasonably good when it comes to minding the till.  If he can manage to avoid the temptation to get into spats over wanting to redecorate the promenade deck in Social-Conservative purple and instead focus on keeping the Titani- er, Indiana afloat, he can do very well.  His folksy-college-president Democat opponent, John "Walrus" Gregg, seems to have been put on the ticket to fail gracefully; he's actually not a bad fellow but his running mate is a classic Carrie Nation, pinch-faced with certainty that she knows what's best for you and brooking no refusal to comply; she should be kept as far away from public office as possible, if you ask me.  In third place and with his own sort of grace is the forementioned Rupert Boneham, 1860s beard and all.  He's my sentimental favorite.

     Elsewhere, there's the nationally-famous Mourdock/Donnelly race.  For all the unfavorable attention Mourdock has received, Mr. Donnelly has an actual pro-life voting record.  Both men (and Libertarian stalwart Andrew Horning) are actually decent enough, all of them look good on Bill of Rights issues...and one of them is sure vote against throwing out the Federal health care mess, which is why I'm not voting for Joe Donnelly.  Mr. Mourdock seems to have a positively Agnewtonian gift for foot-in-mouth and any reporter covering the political beat ought to be rooting for him as a steady source of easy stories.

     Then we have Representative Andre Carson, a bit worried now his district has been moved slightly south.  A very personable man who dislikes me 'cos I am pale and blue-eyed, and he's a bonafide member of the hereditary ruling class.  He's up against Republican Carlos May; Carlos may but it is unlikely.  I no longer get to throw my vote away here; I've got a new wastebasket, the Scott Reske (D)/Susan Brooks (R)/Chard Reid (LP) set-to.  That's a Marine vs. a U.S. Attorney vs. a Libertarian.  The NRA -- shock, horror! -- likes Mr. Reske.

     In Indiana, the .gov wants you to have a cribsheet (or scorecard).  If you're wondering who you can vote against -- or, unlikely though it may be, for -- all you have to do is use the handy "Who's On Your Ballot?" website.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Very Fine BlogMeet

...Yats was warm and uncrowded, with the usual menu of assorted Creole-over-rice dishes.
In attendance: Joanna (yayy!), Old Grouch, Kerry (recent inheritor of a tabletop steam engine), The Jack (handgonne in hand), Don (a Cajun adrift amongst us sauvage savants) Tam and yrs trly, Roberta X.

     Conversation was all over the place, from cover stories in the copies of Concealed Carry Tam brought to pass out to Don's experienced judgement of the food ("Creole, not Cajun -- Cajun uses more tarragon and less pepper.") and Old Grouch's find of a perfectly wonderful Halloween event at the Old Centrum: silent movies!  First-rate ones!  With a real pipe organ! Johanna mentioned her latest writing projects, Kerry his search for a good "starter" ham HF transceiver (I'm at a loss; based on front-panel layout and user reports, I think highly of Icom -- their 718 looks nice -- but as a dedicated boatanchorist,  I have no experience with anything more recent than the Ten-Tec "Scout!") and it was, all-in-all, a fine old time.

     --The entree menu changes daily but I unreservedly recommend the sea-salt brownies, an extravagance of chocolate verging on heavyweight devil's food cake.

     I rode the mini-highwheel (in newsboy cap, double-breasted peajacket, jeans rolled up to just below my knees and fluorescent-yellow knee socks, 'cos if you're gonna, why stop half-way?). About midway through our gathering, a passer-by showed up, wanting to know whose bike it was and offering his compliments!  Despite being a lot of work to ride -- direct-driving a 28" wheel is not as easy as it sounds -- it's a lot of fun, too.

     At last, I have captured the essence of Tam in a photo:
Always in motion.  (But wait!  That's a white hat, not a black one.  Does this mean...other than hat color, the evil-twin Tam is exactly like the one we all know?  Eeeeeeeeeek!)

Overslept, Needed It

...But I'm much better now! (As the brilliant and likeable John Astin often said, in character as Gomez Addams.) (Ah, but see Comments: did the line only turn up much later, in his appearances on Night Court?  I thought it was a deliberate re-use but perhaps not.)

     Speaking of Mr. Astin -- still very much with us and teaching drama at Johns Hopkins University, if Wikipedia is to be believed -- it had never occurred to me that he bears quite a resemblance to Edgar Allen Poe.*  It had to him and he proceeded to -- ahem -- act on it.

     You might bear the unfortunate Poe in mind as election day approaches; there's a theory that he died of voter fraud: in the 19th Century, persons would be kidnapped off the street, drugged or liquored up, and sent forth to vote for a party multiple times, with a change of clothes (etc.) and another dose in between, going from one polling place to another.  It was called "cooping" and  worked best with alcoholics, drug addicts and vagrants.  Poe had been traveling from Richmond, Virgina to New York and was found in Baltimore, wearing clothing not his own, near a voting location and in a state of serious intoxication; he died without ever being able to give any account of how he ended up in such a condition.

     And you were wondering why in many states even now, the bars must remain closed as long as the polls are open? Now you know.
* Possibly one reason he was chosen to play Gomez, s’il vous plaît?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Fame, Such As It Is

Fleeting -- and yet, my very favoritest Indiana State Supreme Court Justice keeps getting in the news, and always for the same thing.

    (Speaking of fame, lookit who got quoted!  Oooooo.)

     And remember, when the ballot asks, "Retain Justice Steven H. David?" the answer is NO!

October BloooooooogMeet!

Ghosties an' gobblins an' things that do The Bump! Or other long-vanished dance crazes, they're all verrry scarrrry....

Disturbing Juxtaposition

"Today's text is from the Book of Gregg..."

     (Fine, fine, it's a cult.  But their files are amazingly well organized and they keep asking if there aren't more forms they get to fill out.)

Acute Discomfort

     Both ears, or just in front of them: pain like an icepick, one for each side.  And a combination of tinnitus and hypersensitive hearing.  That adds up to little additional bursts of pain at any sound with a rapid risetime.

     Which explains why I am blogging wearing hearing protection this morning.

    But I'll be taking Vitamin I shortly -- which reminds me.  Oy.  There's no winning, is there?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Does My Rhapsody Need Waxed?

     Possibly. I've left work to the sight of positively stunning sunsets every night this week, clouds stark white, gold or neon-pink against a sky in every shade from deep royal blue to palest cornflower.

      Today, the weather had turned, from sunlight 80s to rainy 40s;* it was gray and gloomy all day, a low overcast like a basement ceiling.  I wasn't expecting much and hadn't passed near a window in some time.  Walked out the back door to find a softly-quilted comforter overhead, clouds edge-lit in violet, pink-gold, and slate blue, the sun a brilliant beacon at the edge of the sky, where a sliver of sky-blue so suffused with light it teetered on the edge of turquoise seemed to carry the glow around half the sky.

     It was little short of amazing; the low clouds had turned fluffy and gone from a cold, dank threat to a city-sized blankie.

     And the dome of the sky -- even made up as a bed -- is too large to photograph.
* That's "243" and "7" respectively, for those of you in Canada or on The Continent.

Bloggiversary: Missed!

This blog turned five (5) back on 7 October!  It does not seem that long ago.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

New Brainbox Online

Wowie!  Is this thing ever fast!

Bad news, I have damn-all transferred from the old machine, and still have to grab out my bookmarks (I think.  H'mm, better check the thumb drive!)  And I have not yet made up my mind about the  pseudo-Apple keyboard, which is less than optimally finger-friendly.  On the other hand, it may be a little better for touch-typing, so I shall give it time.

     Better news, I did stuff most of "My Documents" onto the Toshiba 640GB external drivette and the similar stuff from my old (oooooold) laptop was already on it.

     I need to see if my external HD dock works with the HD in my old machine; that'd be the quick way.

     Still to come: making one of the laser printers Tam has acquired work as a shared printer!  (I love my old h/p 640C Deskjet, the very Ritz for doin' T-shirt iron-ons, but it's never been very good at feeding more than one page and has been steadily getting worse.  This is not useful if you want to print something out to ply the ol' blue pencil or write a summary, and printing it at work is Right Out: they've been getting nibbled to death by printer-supplies ducks for years now and only a real rat would add to it.)

Etymology Unleashed!

Y'know why we call that great big, whiskery aquatic mammal a "walrus?"  'Cos they went broke trying to sell bouquets, so "florist" was right out!

One Man Can Change The World

...Usually in a way he neither intended nor likes.  Ey, Mr. Mourdock?  (He's now made the Tonight Show, The Onion and both his Democrat opponent's and that entire party's day.)

     Agree or disagree with his opinion, you've got to admit he did a darned poor job of expressing it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pardon My Dust!

...I'm (trying) to migrate to a new computer.  The 2002, 2.8GHz, half-GigaByte RAM engine that has been chugging away for lo these many years is...chugging...ever....slower.  Every software update makes it slog worse, poor thing.  It's time for a new brainbox and I have two choices -- one NIB, smallish, recent, and the other a massive (and still fairly recent) ex-graphics machine from the scrap-pile, total overkill for what I need but undoubtedly on hyperdrive if I can shut down the zillion things on it that I don't need.. 

     I'll start with the smaller, simpler one.  Gonna need some luck and some time.

Self-Inflicted Wedgie

We all know what "wedge issues" are, right?  High-profile notions over which opinion is so divided that agreement seems impossible and opposing positions are so entrenched that all their focus is on stopping the other side instead of doing what they can, where they can.

     We see it all the time.  Take guns -- if you're concerned about urban violence, shouldn't you be working with at-risk youth instead of picketing gun stores?  If you're worried about legislatively-imposed disparity of force, shouldn't you be teaching little old ladies to shoot and making sure they've got something for their purse instead of hollering down a well at J0an P3terson?

     But that's not the only third rail; it's not even the highest-voltage one.  Last night, Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for one of  Indiana's U. S. Senate seats, reached out and embraced the other one.  In debate, he was handed that over-roasted old political chestnut: Should abortion be allowed in cases of rape or incest?

     Well, at least he's honest.  He replied, "I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that's something God intended to happen," a statement he's busily retconning even now. 

     Democrat opponent (and, FWIW, also opposed to abortion, though evidently willing to accept the rape and incest exception) Joe Donnelly promptly distanced himself with his own opinion about what $DEITY wants, which is that he doesn't believe "...any God, would intend that to happen."

      Mourdock had steered a careful line until last night, focusing on economic issues and "Obamacare."[1]  This could be an election-loser.  The flap will have done little to change the opinions of hard-core party-line voters; the Richard Lugar Republicans who were reluctantly willing to vote for anyone as long as he wasn't a Democrat are liable to be reconsidering and whatever undecided middle there was has almost certainly picked a side now. 

     You pays your money and you makes your choice -- but not pro-choice in this contest.  Both men are A-rated by NRA, so the decision still comes down to economic/health care matters, the only area where the two men have significant disagreement.

     (P.S. Programs to prevent unwanted pregnancy before conception, adoption and services for unwed mothers?  Still way, way down at the bottom of the list.  They don't even get their own telethon or footrace!  Outlawing handguns cedes distribution to the criminal underworld and disarms the law-abiding -- so what do you think outlawing abortion might do, Mr. Comstock (R) and Mr. Comstock (D)?)

     (P.P.S. If Comments becomes a big ol' abortion-per-se debate, I'll pull the plug.  Impasse has already been reached and if there's a heart or mind still unreached out there, the body that carries both around is in no position to read obscure blogs.)

     (P.P.P.S. Andy Hornung (perennial LP candidate Andy Hornung) is also running for this seat.  While he disapproves of abortion,[2] too, at least he thinks it's a State-level issue the Federal government should stay out of.)
1. He didn't build that, you know.  That albatross came outta Congress, which seems (as is usually the case) happy to let the President wear it.
2. I'm soooooo interested in the opinions -- pro, con or muddled -- of people who will never, personally, have to make that decision.  Oh, wait: I'm actually not.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

They're Not Making Any New Ones

Indiana usually ranks fourth in lists of states with the most covered bridges and we have fewer than a hundred -- working on one fewer still, after a tractor-trailer driver decided to try one on for size up in DeKalb county last month.  (Spencerville Covered Bridge, clearance very clearly posted.)

     Repair it?  And wait for the next modern-highway-sized load to come along?  Nope; looks like it's going to moved and become a pedestrian bridge, one more piece of history off the job and put under glass.  Beats losing it alogether -- but not by much.

     A lot of history plain sucks.  Some parts didn't.  We should refrain from tossing the good parts out with the bad. 

     (Post title takes some poetic license: they did build a new one a few years ago, a nice Burr Arch, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  But it's more of a functional showpiece.) 

Monday, October 22, 2012

New At I Work On A Starship

     Just a little vignette, a return visit to the sort-of-anarchist commune/university/whatever, a look at another inhabitant of Frothup and sometime FCS space-crew: Mo.

     My apologies for the out-of-continuity story bits; I am working hard on an "Our Story Thus Far..." summary for Frothup: Dropping In, so that I can start moving the narrative forward again.  Doing my best to keep spoilers out of the odds and ends that demand to be written in the meantime.

Same Old Same Old

Remember when Mr. Obama promised to run those nasty ol' lobbyists outta .gov jobs?  Radley Balko points to an article showing -- with plenty of examples -- how the new broom might've swept the old ones out...and certainly swept a new crop right in.

     Here's the thing: Uncle Sam needs Subject Matter Experts; so do the various industries and groups who lobby him.  While it may be unfortunate that they periodically do-si-do, that is how it works.  Candidates tell you, with a truthful, noble frown, that "lips that touch lobbying will never touch mine," that they will have no truck with lobbyists, not nohow! In practice, all that means is they will run the Opposition's lobbyists out.  "Lobbying" is the off-season filler job for every SME and fixer in the District of Columbia and all her suburbs.  What, did you think they'd mow lawns and proffer "massage" to tide themselves over?

     ...Not that the oldstream media think so; they're already sitting around the campfire holding flashlights under their wagging chins, fretting that if Mr. Romney gets in, it'll be boooom times for (GOP-leaning) lobbyists.  What the heck, it probably will -- and lean times for the Democrat-inclined ones presently filling the Executive branch like cats in Hemingway's Key West home.  (Oh, and another hot tip for the steam-press and Kinetoscope set?  Tinker Bell is just a tiny spotlight and Nana is just an actor in a dog suit.)

BlogMeet: Yats?

What about Yats (on College Ave.) for our next BlogMeet?  Upside: food is *good.*  Service is fast, fast, fast!

Downside: no dedicated parking.  None.  You'll be finding a spot along the street.  Also, no beer/wine/whatever.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chocolate Indulgence

Picked up at the Yuppiemart: a "limited edition" Ritter Sport chocolate bar with "Rum, Raisins, Hazelnuts," and perhaps an extra comma: the raisins appear to have been soaked in rum and the combination is appallingly tasty.  (And I barely drink, certainly never rum!)  A search-engine scan finds 'em widely available with German-language labeling, so possibly only the Englisch Sprache version was a limited edition.  (Nope, I didn't get any freebies for this and just as well -- 'tis better a rare treat.)

Magnetic Rag

From the creative mind of Scott Joplin:
Today, Joplin is fondly remembered for his brilliant ragtime compositions. A fervent believer in (and example of) education as a path to progress, what he would have preferred to be known for was opera! He wrote several and went broke staging an early one (when one of the players absconded with the box-office receipts,* stranding cast, crew and composer -- the opera had been making money); his last opera was written racing against time while he was slowly dying.  (Unlike his generally-upbeat opera and popular music, his own life was as wrenching as Greek tragedy).   In his lifetime, he was well-known but only his earliest published ragtime work, Maple Leaf Rag, was a huge success, bringing in a small but steady income.

     For an example of Mr. Joplin away from ragtime, at this link you'll find The Great Crush Collision March, a kind of musical description of William Crush's staged wreck of a pair of (uncrewed) steam trains in September 1896.   A better score for a silent film of such an event would be hard to imagine -- but this was  written to stand alone; the first public screening of a projected film in the United States was in April of that year.

     (Tam points out Joplin would not be nearly so well known today were it not for the film The Sting.  'Strewth but I would have anyway; my parents record collection include a sampling of ragtime with no few Joplin tunes among them and I remember being delighted to find out there was a movie filled with that kind of music.)
* Possibly the score as well -- there's not a scrap left of Guest of Honor.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cat Behavior

Neither Tam nor I have seen a cat do this before: under some circumstances, typically if he is annoyed or frustrated, Huck the cat will "Mohawk" the fur along his spine.  It stands right up with the hairs at 45 degrees or so, looking like the crest along a dragon's back.

     I've seen him -- rarely -- "bottle" his tail, puffing up the fur so it looks three times its usual size; he can puff out his fur, too.  But "Mohawking" is a new one.  H'mm -- whatever's irking him doesn't rate a full threat display?

     (Rannie-Wu, Tam's cat, has picked up another nickname, from the way she eels across the desk and ever-so-delicately into my lap: Almost Two (or Too) Jaguar.  Call it semi-Aztec; and Huck's would probably have to be Ten Tiger, his strength being as the strength of ten because his heart is pure.  Greedy, but pure.)

Friday, October 19, 2012

FN Five-seveN For Sale SOLD!

Bought it from a co-worker specifically to sell.  In like-new condition with the box, the docs and three magazines.  She doesn't want it -- a gift from her son -- and I think it's a bit silly, a .22 on energy drinks shot from a plastic gun the size of a canned ham.

     But plenty of people love them, and if you're a resident of Indiana, 21 or older, not barred from owning firearms and preferably have a carry permit, this'n could be yours.  I'm bringing it to the Indy 1500 tomorrow.  The first qualified $850 takes it.

     IMO, this is a target/plinking gun.  I know FN tried to sell it for home defense and the high-velocity, small-diameter round has a reputation for going through body armor.  (And you're having a problem with armored assassins?  D00d, you should move; at least go stay with a friend while you get the place fumigated!) There's a grain of truth to it, mostly 'cos the round is small, pointy and fast, but it's not a magic ray-gun, just an unusual handgun some politicians think you shouldn't own.

     (H'mm, I could do a better selling job.  FN Five-seveN!  As used [more or less] by the U. S. Secret Service and the Royal Thai Army!  Get one and be like the kewl kids!)

     (A commenter pointed out that the Ft. Hood killer* used a  Five-seveN.  He could have used a vial of sarin, a can of gasoline or a shotgun, too; he picked one of these instead.  Did you give up the .32 ACP because of Gavrilo Princip?)
* This blog does not mention criminals by name, especially if it appears they were after notoriety.  Grotty little termites gnawing away at the foundations of civil society should not be encouraged in any way.

The Muse Waynes? Not!

There was a strange woman in Gotham
Lots of feline psychoses, she'd got 'em
She went prowling by night, causing havoc and fright.
But the Dark Knight'll catch her, just watch 'im!

Internet Warning: National Scare The Credulous Day

O.M.G.!!!eleven!!!!  Email all your friends!  Alert the Facebook!    Start a web page, a fundraiser and Twitter to the whole world: they've designated Halloween as National Kill A Pit Bull Night!

     ...Er, well, that is, one guy did, probably trying to prank a Slater, Missouri city councilman, who proposed an anti-Pit Bull ordinance there, one that later morphed into a broader dangerous-dog rule.  Some dewey-eyed innocent got hold of the nasty stunt and must have had a lot of free time...

     It's not true.  On the other hand, Halloween is a good night to keep an eye on your pets, as there are a lot of strangers out walking around and even without the occasional young hooligan making trouble, Fido and Fluffy may be upset.

     Sheesh, Spanky and Our Gang never had to put up with this!

     (I'm not a dog person but even I know the domestic dog was bred to have very few hardwired wolf-like behaviors; "inherently bad" dog breeds died out and the vast majority of dogs -- pit bulls included -- can be good pets if properly socialized.  On the other hand, if you raise any of the poor beasts to be vicious, they will be -- so don't.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

No, "Audit The Fed," Not "Blow Up!"

Once again, the FBI's got itself into the bomb-supplies business -- but just like Wile E. Coyote's ACME, what they sell doesn't actually work.

     This time, they found a man from Bangladesh who wanted to blow stuff up and were only to happy to set him up.  As is so often the case, it was Target: NYC, with the Federal Reserve Bank his immediate aim, since it seemed easier to hit than the Stock Exchange.  (And we wonder why Mayor Bloomberg seems paranoid?  The FBI's settin' people up to bomb his town!  But you think he'd fret more about ANFO than NRA.)

     While you have to wonder how far any of these clowns would get without J. Edgar Hoover's kids "helping," the successful outcome is that yet again, something didn't get exploded.  (And for the record, I am very much in favor of keeping malefactors from blowing up persons and property.)

     Also, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.  And that's the part that kinda frets me.

     (Summat related, the short film Me And The Big Guy.  Sounds interesting.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Limerack & Ruin

There was a young lady from Cleve-o-land
Whose bedding became a sad deodand:
Materials Velcrotic, she found quite narcotic
But she strangled herself through misusing them.

"Presidential" Debate

     I watched some of it last night -- and turned it off, embarrassed for them.  The candidates strutted and preened and got almost in one another's space like teen-age boys, B-team jocks, trying to impress the same cheerleader, while treating the moderator like the cheerleader's weight-challenged friend.

     Friends tell me that it was "genuine, gloves-off realpolitik;" what I saw was a couple of men who had trouble giving a straight answer to any question, tended to lecture and who couldn't be bothered to notice a count-down clock.  Petty schmucks, with whom I'd hate to have to share a cab or the same row on an airliner.

     Shut off the TV and went to sleep.  The Presidency is really a crappy job: the pay isn't all that great. You can't even go buy a damn pushcart hot dog without a dozen Secret Service agents and half the White House Press Corps getting in the way.  You have to live over the office, they run tours through the place all day and you're on 24-hour call.  Whatever decision you make, about half the public thinks it was wrong and plenty of them have no qualms about calling, writing, blogging or otherwise carping about it.  And it appears to age the President a decade for every four-year term.  Still, you'd think that whole, "Leader of the Free World," dinner with Kings and Popes, fame and fancy living thing would attract a slightly better group of applicants.  Or at least guys who could debate each other with more decorum than High School students.

     UPDATE: I've had comments asking if I noticed the moderator taking the President's side, or what he had to say about guns --  What, a member of the Old Media carried a Democrat President's water?  Mr. Obama has outrageous opinions about guns?  Quelle surprise!   But that both men huff and bow up like tomcats at one another, an ill-cast Tweedlemney and Tweedlebama, that is something a bit new.  When both of them prefer mud wrestling to the high ground, whichever way you vote and whatever other issues and baggage come with it (and there is plenty of both), it's a sure vote for mud-slinging.  I'm disappointed at a system that keeps trying to back me into a purely defensive vote.

Book Review: Dodger and others

Dodger is Terry Pratchett as we've come to love him!  Not on the Discworld, but writing not so very far away: a romanticized version of Charles Dickens's London.  You may find some of the characters a bit...familiar, as well.  Extremely solid fantasy writing, as lushly-imagined and warmly human as the (other) best of his work, if you enjoy Pratchett even a little bit, you'll like this book.

     Sky Coyote and The Life Of The World To Come, Kage Baker -- continuing the late author's saga of "Dr. Zeus, Inc." and its far-flung network of, for lack of a better word, time bandits, the first book takes us back to California barely before the Spanish, where a colossal (and largely beneficent) scam involves immortals, "moderns" (from the 24th century) and the local Chumash settlement.  Botanist Mendoza puts in frequent appearances but the book follows Joseph, the Facilitator who recruited her, and his struggles with his current job and his greater role.  At times quite bleak, it rings very true to her characters.
       In The Life Of The World To Come, the 24th Century plays a major part -- mostly, the wimps who mope about in it (and how would we look to Tiglath-Pileser or Atilla the Hun?), as the book neatly follows the crossing and recrossing arcs of those moderns, Mendoza, and a young man of mystery who...  But that would be telling.
      Both of them are, in my opinion, worth your time.  Baker did her homework and her historical detail is accurate and complete -- if you liked In A Garden Of Iden, you will likely enjoy these books, too.  The background for all three is certainly one of the more original concepts in recent SF.

     As ever, you can hunt these books down via Amazon and I'll ask you to please use Tam's link to get there -- costs you nothing and helps pay her rent.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vote "No" On Keeping Justice Steven H. David

     Time to mention this again.  --As one blogger, there's not a lot I can do to see that Justice Steven H. David is sent to "explore other opportunities;" but I'll do what I can.

     His reading of one of the most basic civil rights is deeply flawed: he believes you shouldn't have the right to resist if police enter your home illegally.  This flies in the face of common law and judicial decisions going back long before the United States even existed. As a practical matter, the Supreme Court of Indiana's decision is insane: most forcible police entries, especially "no-knock" warrants, are indistinguishable from a home invasion.  Should Officer Friendly happen to get a wrong address or a bad tip and kick in your door, and you were to respond by picking up so much as a baseball bat, Justice David would have you facing criminal charges for it.  (To say nothing of what the SWAT team Officer F is playing lead for might do.)  After all, he reasons from his comfortable home and nice, regular State paycheck, you can always sue 'em right back -- forgetting that initiating a lawsuit is a lot easier if you're already an attorney and/or well off. (Pop quiz: most police entries occur in A) well-off neighborhoods filled with lawyers and Pillars Of The Community or B) neighborhoods like mine, where people are not so well-off.  Class...?)

     For me, that alone would be enough to want him off the Court.  But just like in the Veggie-Matic ads, Wait!  There's more!

     It turns out he's a great big booster of the "Missouri Plan" for picking judges,* which in Indiana's version gives lawyers way too much influence on who gets nominated: a seven-member panel, three citizens appointed by the Governor, three attorneys elected by the Indiana Bar Association (a private organization; it will not shock you to learn they want to keep every judge up for a retention vote) and presiding, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Indiana, the kind of tie-breaker most of us plain citizens are liable to defer to.  This lot picks three (3) nominees and the Governor gets two months to either pick one or the list goes right back to the Chief Justice, who then gets to choose.  It's all very cozy and insiderish.  I'm not saying it's any better than the popular elections the state used from 1851 to 1971, or having the Governor appoint them for six-year terms subject to confirmation by the state Senate as Indiana did from 1816 until 1851, but maybe it's time to take yet another look, 'cos they have merely gone from being lackeys of their party to lackeys of the unbridled exercise of government power and that's not an improvement.  

     And the last thing we need is a Justice hip-deep in keeping that status quo way quo.

     When the ballot asks you, "Shall Justice Steven H. David be retained?" I recommend voting NO.
* And politically liberal according to the linked story, which surprises me; I really thought one could at least count on that side of the aisle being against the police wandering into your home on a whim.  But jackboots are made for both feet and any more, positions you think you can depend on either side holding are not necessarily so.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Peek Behind The Curtain

...At RXC3I:
     Still anything but neat, it is getting organized.  Real-estate taxes and doctor stuff in the clips waiting to get filed.  On the desk, tools left over from installing the color-coded clips, my "wheelbarrow full of cash," Vitamin I, clutter.  Some research materials on the shelf and, on the desk to the left of the keyboard, I Work On A Starship notes and related items -- the bound black notebook is labeled The Hidden Frontier Factbook, which I am slowly filling in with everything I already knew.  ;)  (Gah!  The keyboard is way overdue for a wash!)

     Some handy gadgets on the hutch verticals: a "Command" cord bundler, stuck on with their clever damage-free adhesive, holds USB cables; on the right, smaller hooks from the same company (a 3M division) work really well with some tiny bungee-loops with molded on hooks to hold small items.  The color-coded clips across the top are an updating of the old office "spikes."  Very handy for sorting and you don't impale your hand even on a clumsy morning.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Break The Sound Barrier Without A Vehicle?

     Why not?

     Not only does energy drink Red Bull claim to give you wings, if you play your cards right, they will strap 'em on you, haul you to the edge of space, and kick you out of the capsule!

     It's happening now already happened. Tam's got a link.  Go. See.

     I'm just sorry Yuri Gagarin isn't around to see it.  --Joseph Kittinger is.  He's also a prime advisor for today's effort and he's CapCom in Mission Control for today's drop.  His trip down in 1960 was from 102,800 feet: over 19 miles, all of it down.

     Felix Baumgartner, after taking a balloon to the edge of space (setting the new record), stepping out, breaking the sound barrier (new record for skyding, spinning down, stabilizing, opening the 'chute and preparing to steer it over to the landing area: "I need directions!"  So now you know what it takes to get a man to ask for directions.

     (Poor Pyotr Dolgov, who would've been the second-place holder, cracked his helmet in 1962, exiting the gondola at 93,970 feet in as hostile an environment as you can enter. The freefall distance record holder, Yevgeni Nikolayevich Andreyev, left the same vehicle about 10,000 feet earlier on the same trip.  He passed away in 2000, one of the few members of a very exclusive club.  Of the Vostok cosmonauts, who all had to bail out of a re-entering space capsule around 23,000 feet, only Valery Bykovsky and Valentina Tereshkova are left.)

10:32 And Nothing Up?

I'm off my game!  --I have an excuse, yesterday was a busy day: I stomped all over my fear of going to new places and meeting new people and made it to a Writer's Center of Indiana  class on writing Speculative Fiction; the prospectus spoke of "world-building" and markets for fiction, and I need more rigor in the first and more of a clue in the second, so...  Off I went to class.

     Marian University is barely a long like ride down the Central Canal* Towpath trail from Roseholme Cottage.  Parking at MU made me wish I had.  But a long walk is good for both spirit and heart and barely 20-odd minutes after entering campus, I was in class.

     Very small class. Very good class and an especially gifted instructor, the engaging Maurice Broaddus; any man who manages to move Arthurian legend to the mean streets of Indy's rougher neighborhoods, Merlin, magic and all is a guy worth listening to -- and how often do you get to shake the hand of a preacher/horror writer? I learned a lot and was glad I'd attended.

     ...And from there to a quick snack and on to Eagle Creek Pistol Range.  The ever-patient gunsmiths at Coal Creek Armory had fixed my Ruger Mk. II (a loose ejector I really should have noticed) and it needed to be checked out.
     1. Oh, wow: shooting .22 revolvers the past few months has helped out my semi-auto shooting a lot.
     2. Rear sight had crept to the right, which I noticed 'cos I was making a half-moon right of center in the target.  I centered it up on the receiver/barrel. I'm not so all-fired good that I will use my own shooting as the standard of accuracy; either Tactical Solutions got the barrel and housing concentric when they built the aftermarket upper or there's no point.
     3.  Still plenty fun to make small holes in a piece of paper thirty feet away.  Why people point these things at others and inquire as to their valuables is a mystery to me; it can't possibly be as enjoyable.

     Also seen at Eagle Creek: LEO Assumption of Specialness yet again: officer from one of the outlying counties, older but lean and fit, badge and sidearm on his belt, shows up with a student and proceeds to go right up to the line.
     Range Officer: "Sir, may I see your lane assignment card?  Have you shot here before?"
     LEO (hands over card): "No."
     RO: "Have you had the safety orientation?"
     LEO: "I don't need that."
     RO: "Um, it's required.  Insurance.  Is your friend shooting?  She needs it, too."
     LEO: departs for orientation, grumpily.

     Later on, he had to be reminded that there's no drawing-from-holster at ECPR; the gun on his hip had to stay there, or take a trip to the unloading barrel before it returned to the firing line in a proper case. To his credit, he took it well (perhaps he had noticed the varying levels of skill and training up and down the line?) and when he took a break from teaching to shoot a little, he was fast and accurate.  This city's public range: it's a learning experience for all involved.

     A busy day, a long night's sleep and then I awoke and made an omelet filled with a bit of left-over ground sausage, a little thin-sliced sandwich ham, the last of our "Mexican" shredded cheese, diced onion, carrot and red bell pepper; ate that while Tam proofread my latest fiction and finally got 'round to Posting Something On The Internet.  Ain't you glad you came back to check?
* Fortuitous Typos: "Central Cabal Towpath."  What are they towing?  Their unfortunate victims?  ...Given Indiana's canal history, "the State's budget" is more a more likely answer.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

New York City Gandersauce!

Oh, yum:  Remember NYC's ban on supersized sugary drinks?  Beverage manufacturers are suing them over it!

     H'mm, wasn't Mayor Bloomberg all in favor of suing firearms manufacturers when choirboys* in the Big Apple misused their products?  How's it feel when the glove is on the other foot?

     Me, I think mebbe we otta all put down the fast-food feedbag and back slowly away -- but I want to convince you to do it of your own free will, not hector businesses with the threat of arrest looming because some salt-crazed Mayor has got his bloomers in a twist.
* All youthful criminals, no matter who they are, come equipped with some relative or neighbor to tell the TV cameras what a good child they'd been, right up until yesterday.  Once -- just once -- I want to see some grizzled old grandmother look straight into the the camera and say, "That kid was no darned good.  We all knew he was going to get into serious trouble sooner or later."  But no, every last one sang to little old ladies and helped the choir across the street and always ate their galoshes when it rained spinach.  I'd wonder if it was fluoride (oh, Mr. Kuuuuuu-brick!) but you know some percentage of young adult offenders drink nothing but well water.  --Makes me wonder where the "He was such a good boy" adults were back when it could've made a difference.

Friday, October 12, 2012

New At I Work On A Starship

A kind of character sketch from the Far Edge:
     You've seen the type.  A little out of sync, too quiet or too loud; unless he's sitting with a bunch of gray heads, he doesn't get the jokes. He doesn't go outdoors when the sun's up and it's no bet that he's wearing a counter-pressure suit right now and the helmet's within arm's reach.  He can't sleep without the comforting hum and clank of machinery and if the air stops blowing, he wakes in the silence, heart pounding. 
     He's The Veteran.

We Can't Vote "Vacate?"

     Love 'em, hate 'em, lock 'em in the crawl space and feed 'em through the vents until the first Tuesday in November is safely past, they'll still keep on mass-mailing grotty little attacks and puffery.  Both candidates sent me oversize cards (and I didn't get them anything).  Each man has a list of reasons why the other guy is a baaaaad man and they, themselves are Slavation In A Can; er, Salvation.  Oopsie.

     When I took these delightful missives from the postbox, they stacked up in such a way that I read a bit of both.  So I thought I'd do a little Art, a little mashing up to share the moment:
     It's called "satire."  It falls under "Fair Use."

     (IMO, Schneider is the better choice among the two -- the stupid rules Republicans make are usually easier to get around and cost less.  But it's like having to choose between being bitten multiple times by a purse-sized dog or stung by a small swarm of bees.  --Pro-gun bees, mind you.)

Speaking Of The President...

Karl Ushanka sent an agent (one "Zhukov") to observe Our President speaking campaigning in Ohio recently, and the agent has filed a full report.

     Neither agent nor Karl is much impressed.

EU Awarded Nobel Peace Prize: Inside Job

Why not?  After all, our current President won the thing, what, winning the election despite American horribleness? Not being G. W. Bush? (But the Nobel Peace Prize has kind of a history of being awarded to foreign heads of the state the Committee has high hopes for, so that's not so far out of line). --But there was a shark in the road ahead:

     Now, the Nobel committee has handed the Peace Prize to the European Union, on the self-congratulatory assertion that the Continent has, somehow, so far managed to avoid starting yet another big war, despite the Archduke-rich environment and an ongoing economic implosion certain to end in wheelbarrows and/or trillion-Euro pocket change.  A committee chaired, by sheerest coincidence, by Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council Of Europe, a kind of Neanderthal existing side by side with the EU's Cro-Magnon and, as is typical of the way things run over there,* thoroughly entangled with it.

     It only avoids being a conflict of interest because nobody outside the Nobel Peace Prize Committee is interested any more.

     But these days, the Peace Prize should come with a round red nose and some white grease paint, don't you think?  And maybe they can get someone to repaint The Coronation of Napoleon with Thorbjoern in the starring spot, face painted and in the process of sticking the clown-nose on!

     Self-beclowning: now all Europeanish and coooool.  Gak.
* Give them this, there's a kind of freedom in getting things so completely snarled up that nobody can sort them out.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Beyond Lies The Wub"

Walls of the City's Linoge has assembled the definitive post on the apparent copyright infringements, distortions, dissembling and disturbing behaviors of gunblogging's most infamous commercial web-editor.  While I strongly disapprove of naming the individual and website under Linoge's microscope and encourage you to likewise refrain from naming, linking to or visiting the Nameless One, I wholeheartedly recommend Linoge's posting to your attention: he explains, with many examples, why you should black-hole the site and shun the individual.

     (Post title explained.)

7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12;
The Superstitions Of Primitives

The TV made much of it this morning: watch your clock for the magic moment of 7:08:09, when the pretty numbers all line up and count!   OoooooooEEEEEooooooooo!

     Yeah, right; and if you're Japanese, it will count down in November instead, '12/11/10, 09:08:07 -- and does p.m. count, too?

     People like me will just have to wait for the 10th of next month, too and get out our 24-hour clocks: yes, the magic magicks (it does?) on 10 XI '12 at 1314:15.

     ...As a teenager working in radio, I was always fascinated when the nixie clock in the FM automation hit 05:55:55, but these are all arbitrary numbers, come our way courtesy of Babylonian astronomers, Roman emperors, Popes and British navigators; and if you're in Indiana, today's moment of woooo hits about an hour ahead of local solar time anyhow (wait 'til November, when we show that mean ol' Sun who's boss and race two hours ahead!).  Sometimes I suspect the TV people of deliberately attempting to inculcate superstition in the viewing public; then I realize they're quite serious about putting chicken bones through their noses, if less so about the Deep Meaning of it all.  That, they leave for the passive, receptive blobs on the other side of the screen and there's nothing we can do about them.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Pune, Or Play On Words

     You've heard about the Amish light-buggy making business, haven't you?  Top of their field, absolutely top; one day the owner toted up all the various versions and varieties he offered, one to suit any budget and not a single bit of vanity to any of 'em, and then he had a modest sign painted on the front of his workshop:


     Oh, it hurts now but you'll thank me for it later.

Coincidence? Or.... Also: Debate!

Item: John Gregg Runs For Governor.
Item: Rescued Baby Walrus Headed For Indianapolis Zoo.
A-hem.  This is just the start, you know! There's a third walrus up to something somewhere, which will prove it's a Movement.


     Tonight, the Walus debates Mike "the Carpenter's buddy" Pence* and wildman-with-a-heart-of-gold Rupert Boneham. (If you were wondering, we are their oysters.) It'll be on all the best channels -- in antique-y low-definition video (at least in color!), since the PBS station that's slappin' in the names and numbers didn't happen to have a whole 16x9 gloriou$ HDTV graphics suite floating around doing nothing, just in case debating candidates came stumbling down the road.  As it happens, their ideals, proposals, projections and oratorial skills will be unaffected by this retrograde infringement of our right to sit at home and count the pores in their cute little button noses.  We're not hiring them to look pretty on TV.

     The money's on Mike Pence, who is holding a good lead in the polls.  I'm voting for Rupert.
* Mike, Mike, Mike...  I wanted to like you, I really did; and if you'd been forthright enough to stand up and say in your ads, "I'm serious about my faith -- the morals of Christianity guide my actions," I'd've been okay with it; we'd've just had to watch you real close.  But instead, you (or your ad agency, but you "approved this message") had to sneak sly little dogwhistles into nearly all your ads, lines that would pass unnoticed by the Heathen but ring out to believers.  So, you've "a servant's heart," do you?  Yes, and a lawyer's tongue, I gather.  Please don't pull that kind of stuff as Governor.  It's undignified.   

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

SpaceX: Takes A Licking And Keeps On Ticking

(Thanks to The Unwanted Blog's report.)  The first official commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station* is well underway -- despite a nasty-looking failure of one of the nine first-stage engines during initial boost, it is in the groove to match up with ISS Wednesday and be grappled in for unloading.

     Yes, it will fly fine with an engine out.  This is what proper design looks like -- SpaceX points out the Saturn V had similar redundancy, and needed to use it, too.

      Watch that company.  Watch that man.  He's Delos D. Harriman; he knows it and he is gonna sell you the moon, by and by
* It's still Space Station Alpha, named by the very first crew, but when was the last time you heard anyone call it that?

Be Careful What You Take In

Case in point: a Winsor McCay* animated short from 1921, in which the paterfamilias suffers a dream about a lovely little creature that shows up at the couple's door.  They feed it...and things go terribly wrong.

     Remember this then next time politicans come 'round with their adorable little ideas: the blame things to grow and grow, and eat and eat, and it all comes out of your pocket.


     Elsewhere on the campaign front, the commercials against are turning into pretty good commercials for, the (supposedly) anti Scott Schneider I linked to the other day, for instance, that points out he's darned good on guns and spending.  From Scott's side of the aisle, the GOP has an ad showing how Dem Joe Donnely has consistently voted his party's line on healthcare and bailouts.  I guess it gets Republicans all het up get out and vote, if only to keep him out of even higher office, but if you're on the Other Side, that's got to be almost as good as a Presidential endorsement, no?

     The way they both thunder Choose A Side! and play Commies and Capitalists, Secularists and Preachers with the verve and fervor of seven-year-olds has me looking longingly at the LP ticket.  'Cos one is the party of Big Government and the other is the party of Really Big Government and they both wanna tell me how to live my life in a zillion detailed ways that really aren't any of their business.  Sure, each one has different plans for me but geez, I'm all (most) growed up now, maybe I should do my own deciding?
* McCay was an uncommonly gifted visual artist and just about singlehandedly invented the animated film.

Monday, October 08, 2012

I Did Not Expect Them To Have A Sign

But at least now I know where it is.

They're Doing It To Ecuador, Too

And East Timor, the British Virgin Islands, Panama, El Salvador, the Federated States of Micronesia and several other countries: QE3.  Inflation.  See, they all use the U. S. Dollar as their actual money, though some of them mint their own cent-value-equivalent coins as well; another handful of countries use our dollars alongside their own money at a fixed rate of exchange.  While the various dollar-shrinking tricks the Feds are pulling may not make all that much difference to an Ecuadorian buying Ecuador-made goods in Ecuador, he's certain to feel the pinch when he goes to buy a Japanese TV or a Korean car -- or a celphone made in China.  (And let's not even talk about what it does to the tourist trade in the British West Indies, though you can bet they are.)

     So remind me again how the Administration is such a friend to the little guy internationally?  Pity's sake, not only do the folks in those countries have no more chance to vote on the Great Mind (ahem) in charge of the Fed than we do, they can't even vote on the guy who picks him.

     Best of all?  Some of those countries ended up switching to U. S. dollars after their central bank tried to print its way clear of economic woes.  It's the Wile E. Coyote school of economics: does jumping off a cliff work any better when the cliff is a hundred times as high?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Frost Giants, Yeti Zombies, Garbled Warmening?

There's a freeze warning on for tonight, and colder overnights promised for the coming week.  What?  Hey, darn it, it's only October! You know, leaves turning (but not falling so early!), mildly crisp air, campfires of an evening, hot buttered rum?*  The pumpkins aren't supposed to frost up 'til All Hallow's Eve.  None of this freeze-yer-rump-off stuff yet!

     ...Now I have to gather the last puzzled green toe-maders (Where'd the warm go? they ask) and set them on the window ledge (or not) to make their way to table as poor orphans.  'Tis sad.

     Gotta wonder when the first snow will hit -- and if it's rebound from the summer's drought.  H'mm, where'd I put the snowblower, dammit? 
* Interpretations do vary. A lot.

Thank You, Indiana Democratic State Central Committee

     Thank you for giving me a website full of reasons to vote for Republican Scott Schneider!  (And sending a nice, glossy flyer to tell me about it.) Oh, he's not perfect; we still have to get background-checked and issued carry permits to legally carry firearms to all those places bad guys had been illegally carrying them to for decades, but you've shown me he's a guy I want to keep in the state Legislature.


     That wasn't your intent?

     Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  Backfired on you, did it?

     Attention, voters, Rich D has a link to the "Who's On Your Indiana Ballot?" page, very handy.  Make notes!
     (By the way, Central Commitarians, one of your models looks to be suffering some sort of inflammation in her eyelids.  She should go get that checked out.)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Believe It -- Or Don't

Few people know that "ham & cheese sandwhich" is a misnomer, and the original version contained no ham at all: a hundred years and more ago, cafes in Hammond, Indiana served simple, delicious sandwiches of a local Swiss-style cheese on rye with a little brown mustard as "Hammond Cheese Sandwiches." Ham was only added later by mistake, when travelers from Northern Indiana asked restaurants elsewhere to make the familiar treat.  The combination tasted so good, it superseded the original!

     Or not.*

     Be that as it may, I was without rye bread, but I did have some "hearty Italian" bread, a little Colby Jack (and a tiny bit of "shredded Mexican cheese," though shredded Mexicans are, to my relief, not anywhere listed in the ingredients) and some nice thin-sliced uncured ham (one presumes it never fell ill to begin with).  If you heat up three slices of the ham in a skillet while the bread is toasting, then stack it up ham - half a cheese slice - ham - other half of cheese slice - ham, with some of the shredded stuff in the corners (round ham, rectangular cheese, Archimedes nowhere in sight) 'til the cheese melts, load up the toast with that stack of goodness and cook each side briefly, you get a nice hot sammich in a hardly more time than it takes to make the toast.

     I didn't even bother with mustard or horseradish.
* 'Cos I  just made it up.

To Hell With It

I'm gonna go make pancakes, the non-rising "Swedish" kind.  It's a cold morning and I'm not feeling especially ambitious.  If the sun ever bothers to look in today, I may go to the range later.

     (Post title courtesy the great T. Y. Wang, an RCA engineer who had a keen appreciation of when to shift tasks.)

Why Johnny Can't Think

It may be the cotton-wool his tender feelings are wrapped in.

     The headline read, "Sculpture Will Be Moved After Tragedy," and I was thinking that some of the taxpayer-funded public art with which the city is increasingly infested had managed to hurt someone, but oh, no, the connection is far more tenuous than that.

     --Come to think of it, so's the art; but I'll get back to that.

     Start with the tragedy, such as it is: A young man, a Purdue freshman, was at a party in an apartment building along Indiana Avenue last month.  There might have been drinking; things may have been loud.  Whatever, complaints were made, police showed up and the young student decided he'd be better off elsewhere.  Via a fifth-floor balcony.  It didn't work.  He slipped and fell to his death, as sad, senseless and far-too-early a passing as any newspaper writer could find.

     In front of the building where he died -- "a few hundred feet away," as the Daily Mail has it -- there is a sculpture.  It is of a young man breakdancing: upside down, arms and legs akimbo, the art held a few feet in the air on a steel pole so passing drivers can appreciate the entire thing.  If looked at it with an eye to recent history, a complete lack of good sense and a predisposition to taking offense, it could possibly be taken as an image of a young man plunging to his death from high up on the building.

     Except it isn't.  --It's also kind of askew to the neighborhood: Indiana Avenue, once upon a time, was a center of music and dance in Indiana, a street of clubs and nightspots in an African-American neighborhood, the cradle of some great musicians and home to a distinctive jazz sound; men like Wes Mongomery had their start along the Avenue.  By the 1960s, the glory was gone; by mid-decade, the historic (and since restored) Madame Walker Theater, one of the few surviving examples of African Art Deco architecture, was largely boarded up.  Even after the theater was spruced up and brought back to life in 1988, it was still a long, slow recovery for the area and it is only in the past decade that attractive, trendy development -- apartments, restaurants and nightclub, mostly -- have shown up.  So when the artist tells us he chose a breakdancer to represent the neighborhood's cultural past, he's either insanely racist (in the "it's all stuff those people do" way), has failed to do even the most cursory of homework, or both.

     While I think it's foolish to remove the sculpture because it might upset people who erroneously associate it with a college student's death, or because the family could so associate it, if they wanna get it out of there and replace it with one of a Black man playing an early electric guitar or something similar, I'd be all in favor of it -- especially if the city'd ask for donations instead of raiding the public purse.

     But for pity's sake, taking it away because anyone would seriously think -- even for a second -- that it represented the moment right before impact?  Preposterous!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Presidential Debates/Why The Hate?

The next one is the Veep-fest and worth a worry; while I am of the opinion that there are dogs who demonstrate more rationality and foresight than Mr. The Vice-Presidente Joseph R. Biden, there is no denying he's got some fire in his belly and in the well-chewed, sound-bitten world of modern televised Executive Branch debates, that could be a very effective technique, especially if Paul "Maths" Ryan tries to play things too cool and logical.

     It hurts to write that.  I'd rather live in a world where histrionics don't trump doing the math; but it's what we've got.


     I'd commented to a co-worker on the President's lack of preparedness for the first debate, adding that " fairness, he does have a day job."  No sooner said than I realized he thinks it's campaigning, and that the Presidenting thing is more of a part-time gig: show up, sign a few bills, bow to the king or caliph of Moorishastan and hop back on the campaign bus, totin' the ol' nuclear football just in case something needs blowed up.  It'll be interesting to see how he does in the next meet-up.


     ...Around the blogosphere, I've found a few instances of what strikes me as the iceberg-tip of a wider issue: some non-Democrat folks faintly hatin' on Ryan for being the variety of semi-wookie who "hands out copies of Atlas Shrugged."  (It's not just you, Og!)

     I don't get it.  Fine, Rand's got herself a powerful loathe on when it comes to religion (specifically, religion used to justify collectivism and sacrificing the individual to the group); fine, she herself was a quarrelsome old lady and no few of her closest followers tend to emulate that behavior -- but they're pullin' in the direction of a smaller, less-powerful government, one with less ability to mess up people's lives including yours.  How's that so bad?  I'm not an Objectivist and even can count myself among the countless thousands of libertarians who, along with most conservatives, were recently dissed and dismissed by a self-proclaimed Objectivist over at Unk's.  We all need to get over it; it's a big world and people hold all manner of damfool notions.  Pull with the people who are headed the same direction as you and argue over how fast, how far and the best way to hold the rope later: the important thing is to get moving!

     L. Neil Smith writes (with some heat) about the fact that the most bitter opposition comes from the people who are nearly on the same side of politics as oneself.  It's a regrettable truth and one we're going to have to start getting over if we're ever going to amount to more than a herd of cats.  You wanna argue about who's the more right, or do you want to stop getting beat up by collectvists, entrenched Progressives and tax-suckling Congresscritters?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

A Reminder

Friends, I really am reclusive.  I dislike travel, intensely, and I don't give out my address.  People occasionally invite me to Outer Darkness, Montana, or the savage and untamed far corners of Indiana or other such outlandish places and meaning no offense, that's unlikely to happen unless I need medical or financial help only available in those places.  I'm a worrier; I have trouble making myself leave the house for work in the morning.

      Travel for pleasure is like lion-taming: I'll watch other people do it but I would not want to try it myself. 

     Here's an example: my last "big trip" but one or two was a day-trip to West Baden Springs, restored but empty at the time.  The nearby French Lick Resort* was where I bit down on a well-done burger at lunch and punched a tooth root through the bone of my upper jaw.  I didn't know that at the time, it just hurt, a lot.  On the way home, I had my first migraine.  It was the start of a lot of trouble and tribulation.

     Travel? Nero Wolfe and Mycroft Holmes had the right idea about it!
* No, no, no.

The Hidden Frontier

Some writers pick a fictional world (or worlds) and set most of their stories in it.  I have; mine's called the Hidden Frontier, in which  FTL travel -- of a difficult and awkward sort -- has been covertly developed at least twice over,* and attempts to use it for strategic purposes have backfired to the extent that there's a whole other human civilization out there, one with whom there is only a shaky peace, after a long, fizzling, inconclusive war.  Heck, it may not even be fictional -- I can neither confirm nor deny it.

     On the one side, you've got the mildly oppressive minarchy of the Federation of Concerned Spacemen, the Far Edge, "governed" by whoever has the time and the budget; spaceborne Edgers don't look or dress quite like the people next door, or sound like them.  Ethnically polyglot, they speak an over-enunciated version of English and dress mostly in mechanical-counterpressure space suits that look like thick full-body leotards or union suits, quite often with a coverall worn over them.  Planetbound Edgers, well, they wear work clothes, whatever fits the climate, and they work long, hard and with just as much automated assistance as they can lash up, since there are a lot of mouths to feed and never enough people to grow food.  Edgers consider a mild case of OCD an asset, and tend to be overly fond of puns and wordplay.  They've been smuggling to and from Earth for decades, usually independent "free-traders" in small (for starships) cargo vessels.  Thanks to some serendipitous WW II German tech they picked up on the Moon (a long story that starts with the so-called "Outer Hebrides Agronomy Project" and Project Hoplite and ends in what the Feds called treason) Edger stardrives are somewhat more controllable than anyone else's, and they are able to recover over 80% of the energy used in an FTL "Jump."  They're smoother in and out of Jump, too; they guard these secrets with great care. The Edger military is a private contractor, Mil/Space, the only one left from dozens at the start of the War; the "Space Marines" are the end result of some very hard lessons. 

     On the other side, there's Earth-government-official civilian settlement on a half-dozen worlds, running to the button-down, bowtie, crewcut set for the West and a couple of assorted Russian experiments (Steelworld -- Stalin Mir -- and Novy Russia were both settled by use if dedicated Party members, Zeks terrified into silence, a false history and no children not born on planet; after the Soviet Empire fell, one cut most ties with the Mother Country (and any other), clinging to the illusion; the other (and one more-conventional colony world) are making the best of it, including a rapid-delivery service run in cooperation with the remains of Russian starship program that brings in reasonable income.  Meanwhile, France and -- maybe -- Red China are doing their own individual things.  Plus there's the military, the United States Space Force and most NATO allies (except France), cut way back since the Treaty of 1989 ended the War; in some ways, they're more like the Coast Guard these days-- well, except for USSF Intelligence, which seems to be everywhere and makes extensive use of reservists.

      And that doesn't even begin to cover the stranger corners, like the sunless and independent Smitty's World, or the Edger "City Ships," whatever they are.  And oh, yes, too strong a stardrive field will kill you.  Prolonged exposure to high but non-fatal levels causes nightmares; a small fraction of people develop an even more unsettling malady in 'Drive: they think they can hear, however vaguely, the $Deity. Or the Heartbeat of the Universe or some such thing. Can they really?  I don't know; the Edgers have some drugs that supposedly treat it but generally the feeling does not go away when the ship leaves Jump and repeated exposure eventually overwhelms the sufferer, resulting in a variety of incapacitating symptoms.  The only real treatment is to avoid star travel after the initial symptoms appear and hope for the best. --And try to enjoy overhearing the Universe.  You might be surprised how many people find it comforting, at least up to a certain intensity.

     I haven't posted much over at I Work On A Starship recently and you might think it's because I'm not writing much.  Nope -- I'm writing too much.   I got stuck on the 2011 Christmas story and I have at least five yarns at varying stages right now.
* FTL drive and the special applications of  Heim-Dröscher-Goubau theory to creating and dispersing an Alcubierre drive field or "bubble" may seem like esoteric stuff, but when it is steam-engine time...well, the wheels commence to turn.

Help A Sister Out

Tam has been in a state in recent weeks, and (finally!) blogged about why yesterday.  It wasn't easy for her to do and she could use your support.  Emotional, tip-jar, whatever; have a look.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Obvious Pun Is Obvious

Especially after a hipster in skinny glasses and skinner jeans elbows past you to grab a bottle.
"Giant 47 pound rooster?"  Yes, sir.  Yes you are.

     (It might be very good wine.  I have no idea.)

Nuke The Gay Whales For Jesus? So Last Century.

Join Brytni Ambyr in saving the gender-neutral kittens from global warmening!  C'mon, you know you'll feel all loutish and guilty if'n y'don't

     Parody is not dead.  It's in the witness-protection program!

A Strong Dose Of Whatisthisidon'teven...

A swingin' Big Band rap song from 1943 about Stalin whuppin' on Hitler based on a speech by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yes, it's real. And the Allies did burn up a helluva lotta Russians winnin' that war. But the next time someone tells you this is the pinkest Administration in U.S. history, maybe you better start laughin'.  (Even if they did red up the White House somethin' awful yesterday.)  Maybe you better buy a nice Commie hat -- or buy a half-dozen for the whole collective at anniversary sale prices.

     (And that reminds me: the commie-watching Ushanka blog has turned six.  Felicitations, tovarich!)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Books Read

It's an ongoing thing: I nearly always have a book and I'm nearly always looking for more.

     Recently under the Bobbiscope:

     Monster Hunter Legion, Larry Correia:  You should realize that if this was 1933, Monster Hunter would be a magazine and Correia would be destroying typewriters keeping the pages filled, probably under some bland whitebread pseudonym the publisher chose for him.  As it is, he gets to keep his name but there's a year or more between books -- and the long wait is well-rewarded!  Legion brings us back to the main cast of MH, after the solo working-vacation (!) in Alpha, with a few of his characteristically-askew retouchings on old tropes (it's a tightrope walk and he never slips, though I always worry when he steps out -- gnomes?  Trolls? ...That hoary old mythical creature?).  He's still the best writer of action scenes in the business, bar none, and gets in some nice X-Files-ish images and byplay this go-round.  It was especially pleasurable to encounter Agent Franks again, possibly the last honest man employed in the Federal bureaucracy.  I won't ruin it for you, but you should buy this book!  Justice prevails, but only just, and the meta-plot still hangs over our the heads of our heros.  I can't wait to read what happens next.

     In The Garden Of Iden, Kage Baker: The first of her "Company" novels, in which a one-way time-travelling company from the far future has set up a network of post-human immortals to very covertly raid all of history.  The immortals are only too human and Baker's evocation of, in this case, 16th-Century Spain and England is on-point. Handled with a surprisingly light hand despite a theme and plot that could have been quite heavy, I recommend this; if you liked Stephenson's "Baroque Cycle," you'll find this book a bittersweet confection.

     Redshirts, John Scalzi: Starts as a romp though a staggeringly bad SF TV series and goes meta when the characters realize they're being written.  Poorly.  By the time its over, it's gone meta on its own meta-ness and you'll have realized what it was bugged you about that TV show you watched in reruns.  While one of the "Codas" struck me a little self-indulgent, overall it is both a good book and a painless lesson in how not to suck at writing episodic SF/Adventure -- principles Scalzi himself had to struggle with as a creative consultant on Stargate: Universe (which didn't suck and bears no resemblance to the series in the book).  If you ever wondered why TV writing tends to slide off into the ditch, you should read this book; if you ever found yourself having to play the redshirt, you must read this book.

     Wireless, Charles Stross: An enjoyable short-story  collection spanning all of his worlds, including some that never made it out of the short-story stage.  Via Kindle and money well spent.

     Hide Me Among The Graves, Tim Powers, picking up the threads of his earlier, terrifyingly-coherent take on what vampires really are in The Stress Of Her Regard, this book is something of a long, lucid and terribly dark dream.  I liked it but you might have nightmares. Powers has a really original slant on the supernatural, IMO the first genuinely new thing since the Cthulhu Mythos.

     The Bible Repairman, Tim Powers -- I didn't know he wrote short fiction; it turns out his dagger is, if anything, sharper and more deftly-weilded than his sword.

     Declare, Tim Powers: this is what set me to catching up on his work.  Charles Stross mentions it as the book he was warned not to read before finishing his own first novel of the The Laundry.  I can see why; though the differences are many, the essential notions are very similar.  If you like Stross but wish he'd written more in the tone of A Colder War, this book is for you.  If you like the bleaker sort of British spy novel, this book's for you. As always, Powers is one of SF's finest stylists; his prose never struggles or stumbles and never, ever occludes the story.

     I am presently nearly through Sir Terry Pratchett's Dodger, which isn't set on the Discworld though I swear sometimes you can see it from there.  It is Pratchett at the top of his form, a delight to read.  Review to follow.

     (As ever, what you should do if you want to buy any of these books is hie yourself over to Tam's and use her Amazon link to order them.  Costs you not one red cent extra and she gets a commission -- thereby freeing her from having to exist on the dry crusts and dessicated vegetables I, as a thrifty landlady, would otherwise feed her. Thus, henceward.)