Saturday, November 30, 2013

PC Bookshelf?

     Kind of at a loss for topics -- I could link to Penn and Teller's replaying of Luis Walter Alvarez's experiment showing you don't need a second gunman, but history's history and no matter what you think happened, it's long over. (Thanks to Whipped Cream Difficulties for the first link.)

     Nope, I'm here to talk about Political Correctness. --Now you may cheer, thinking I'm about to rip speech codes and the kind of ninnies who get Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn thrown out of school libraries, and I suppose I am, too.

     But what about you?  I've had readers tell me none o' that John Scalzi SF has ever sullied their eyes, no ma'am, 'cos he is, you see, a Democrat and a lib'ral.  There are folks passing up the amazing, pellucid prose of Kim Stanley Robinson on account he is Green-ish and has socialist leanings -- and never you mind that his work expresses some familiar concerns about individual rights vs. the collective or that he hammered out an entire novel about an underground, quirky revolution that seizes an entire continent.  Across the aisle, nitwits are yet sweatin' over how to go see Ender's Game at the movie house without losin' their lefty street cred over supporting a man with such awful, horrible opinions on who otta be allowed to commit wedlock on whom -- and never mind that by the time the movie hits the screen, the guy who wrote the book the thing is based on has already seen about as much as he's ever gonna: Hollywood knows how to keep their money in town. There are folks who rail against Ursula K. LeGuin's fiction on account of her politics, both real-world and in print.  And so on and so forth, all across the spectrum of political thought and personal philosophy.  Is Robert A. Heinlein a staunch supporter of women's rights and/or* a dirty old man?  Depends on who you ask!

     Me, I kinda admire a writer who builds her own utopia and then pokes it full of holes (The Dispossessed) and while I think a world of Odonians would drive people insane at a far higher rate than she imagined, I'm glad someone ran the thought-experiment, especially in such an entertaining way.  Would LeGuin and I agree on who to vote for, even for dogcatcher?  Probably not.  Do I read her work?  Darned right I do.

     See, over here, we have the writer, who may be a kind of mean guy with Red sympathies -- and over there, his work, which includes such libertarian classics as And Then There Were None.  Yes, that's Eric Frank Russell, and yes, I have a shelf-full of his work.

     Sure, an author's beliefs and personality influences what they write -- but the stuff's got to sell, too.  Despite what those deconstructive critics are tryin' to tell ya, the work is not the person.  It's just a glimpse through a bent kaliedoscope at some part of who they are and what they know.  Charles Stross and H. P. Lovecraft would very likely have found themselves at odds on most issues from gay rights to the British Crown -- and yet Stross's yarns about the occult-intelligence agency "The Laundry" are just a Concorde flight (or step through an intradimensonal transatlantic portal) from Lovecraft's Innsmouth and Miskatonic University.

     Read (or don't read) authors because of what they write, and let the politics go hang.  It's not gonna pollute your head and you're not "sending a message" by not reading a talented author just 'cos you and them didn't vote for the same prospective oppressor.

     Increasingly, we live in an over-polarized world; we might as well be Blue vs. Green (vs. White vs. Red) rioters in Imperial Constantinople.  Depolarize.  Read what you like -- and read to find out what else you'd like to read more of.
* Because I forget that to most people "or" is what I mean by XOR, while in my head, "or" is OR, with a truth table that runs: A=0, B=0, Output=0; A=1, B=0, O=1; A=0, B=1, O=1; A=1, B=1, O=1.  For XOR, that last  set, A=1, B=1 has an Output = 0 and all the others are the same as before -- which is how you end up with "one or the other but not both," the causal meaning of spoken alternatives, "either A or B," an eXclusive OR.  What is it with you people?  Mr. Boole?  Mr. Boole?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Pass The Gravy, Pass Up The Politics

     My Official Family Thanksgiving is yet to come; those of my relatives not too much at loggerheads* will be gathering Saturday to bond through overeating.

     Despite a range of political opinions that range from religious-Right through center-right to RINO and past to a younger generation that calls itself "progressive," votes Dem and would move to bluer shores if only they weren't making so much more money in this benighted red state (and besides, do you know what taxes are like there?), and my very own firearm-friendly anarchism, we don't talk much politics.

     First off, why look for things to disagree about, when a plate of dammnable (my brother claims "delicious") yams trimmed with marshmallows is right there on the table, reeking?  Second, we all of us go vote, with the secret, smug satisfaction that we're cancelling out one evil or stupid person's effort, at least.  Third, whatever our disagreements, nobody wants to make my Mom sad, and she would be if we started in on politics.

     Much as I'd like to think my family was in some way unique, I doubt it. Most families avoid discord at the holiday table -- the holidays are stressful enough without trying to add to it.  Does that stop our would-be Great Leaders?

     Oh, hells no and it's not just the President's insidious effort to get supporters to talk up Obamacare and shout out those wicked ol' GOP uncles who might talk it down.  Nope, it turns out along with your ACArgument, soon-to-be-ex-Mayor (against guns) Bloomberg is handing out an anti-gun Thanksgiving placemat for the kids.

     Move over, Mom, the State wants a seat at the table. And I bet it won't even eat up those yams and spare me the sight and smell of 'em.  Oh, what happy holidays are these, that have such people in 'em?

     (H/T to Alphecca for the link!)
* The family tradition of a relational style that has much in common with trench warfare has expanded to a new generation and I'm not entirely unsympathetic to the combatants. Nor especially surprised.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Turkey. Day.

     I spent about four hours in the kitchen, though twenty minutes of it was making coffee and enjoying a cuppa' and a bowl of cereal.

     The remainder?  Turducken with mushrooms, "popcorn" asparagus, green salad, mashed skin-on russet potatoes and bacon/onion/Surry sausage gravy.  Plus a nice glass of mead.
Artsy version [TAMFOTO]
     Photo may has followed.

A clearer view [TAMFOTO]
     It was dee-lish.  Adding a chopped-up Surry sausage to the gravy pan (and as a source of some of the hot fat) was an interesting addition.  I put a package of mushrooms around the turducken for the last half-hour, and kept it basted with butter for the last forty-five minutes or so.

     Dessert?  Who has room?  Tam and I watched a couple of Season 2 Venture Brothers episodes, laughed like madwomen, and we'll both be napping soon, possibly accompanied by one cat each.  If I stake out the window seat (where sunlight is streaming in), I may get both cats all to myself.

     As ever, Farmmom gets credit for any success I have with gravy: I'm just following her advice.

Happy Thanksgiving

     What are you doing on the internet?  Shouldn't you be helping out in the kitchen?

     20 degrees here; I'm thinking the kitchen is an especially good place to be.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Former Officer Bisard, Off To Jail

         David Bisard, the IMPD officer who struck a group of motorcyclists three years ago, killing one and injuring others while intoxicated on duty, has been sentenced to sixteen years in jail.

     While he has expressed remorse, he's still maintaining he wasn't drunk at the time.  The jury disagreed and the judge has made undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse a part of Bisard's sentence.

     Still to come: a second DUI charge, stemming from an incident while he was out on bond; that DUI put him back behind bars and he's facing an additional year in jail if found guilty.

     And yes, it's "former officer:" he resigned this week, before IMPD could get around to firing him.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Was It Thoreau Said?

     Oh, yes: "If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life."

     In other words:
     However, my boundless faith in the inefficiency, ineptitude and occasional malfeasance* of the Federal Government does leave some room for hope.
* Or, at least, misfeasance.  A lot of the bureaugentsia couldn't work up a really good mal even if it was their only ticket out of perdition.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mr. Colt's Collier's Revolving-Cylinder Firearm

     Hunh.  Who knew?  Like most firearms hobbyists, I was aware of odd precursors to the Colt revolver, but I sure didn't know about Elisha Collier's relatively-successful flintlock revolvers -- or that Samuel Colt had seen them.

     This takes no glory away from Colt, who devised a more-compact mechanism and was the first to incorporate percussion caps, resulting in the first genuinely-reliable repeating sidearm and jumpstarting seventy years of remarkable advancement in gun design.

"I'm Thankful For..."

     A local car dealer runs a commercial consisting of short video snippits of each of his offspring -- they're up to grandkids by now, at least -- sharing whatever scripted-cute thing they're thankful for.  While a jaded eye notes the ads are updated only at long intervals, presumably whenever there's a new crop of photogenic young, and it is likely no few of the "kids" have diplomas and dependents of their own while we're still cooing over their tongue-tied efforts, it is a sign of the season and a reminder to consider what one might be thankful for.

     I'm thankful I'm not in Texas just now -- or Oklahoma.  Or in any of the locations the TV is telling me are going to get ice-stormed good and hard over the next few days.

     It's no coincidence the bigger holidays generally fall when the weather's lousy: they started out dodging around the necessarily seasonal work on farms.  Halloween provides a respite as harvest winds up and by (U.S.) Thanksgiving, you'd about have the crops all stored and all the canning (etc.) done, with any surplus left for the feast.  Another month of make and mend, and you're ready for the shortest day of the year, a time spent in religious observance and/or with family.*

     But that means the latter two come along as the year is winding up for a final bad-weather onslaught.  It means the tradition of gathering doesn't keep us in our homes and communities, but traveling to connect with scattered families.

     Spare a thought for the season's travelers, if you would, and for all their kith and kin.  Especially this year.
* Snark back and forth at one another all you like about the happy coincidence, Cosmic Good Planning or cynical manipulation responsible for Christmas falling so close to the Winter solstice.  'Tis when it is either way and even the most long-standing of arguments over calendars doesn't move it much.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Complain About The Cold...

     Get more of it: 17 degrease F out there, which is like 30 below, Celsius; or -31, Centigrade.

     ....Okay, you got me; it's a tic over -8 C.  Went to double-fhefk and the cirst C/F fonverter I flicked on was really frummy.  Still afting up, in caft. Deceftive!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

VOIP: The Wave Of The Future

     And like much of the future, it sucks.  My Mom has it -- so she can't dial 911.  Mind you, her VOIP service comes from the very same Big PhATT Phone Co. she has always had, the very same outfit that she gets cell phone service (with functioning 911) from, but by the eternal howling flame of the spirit of Mr. A. G. Bell, they can't figger out how to make her VOIP tell the system where her house is and find the right 911 call center to connect to.

      They also seem to have gnarfed up her first effort at a wearable call-for-help button.  Something about the connection provided by the plain-old-phones jack on the VOIP multimodemockery has the call-for-help hub convinced it should otta pulse-dial and there's no way to correct this short of getting the provider of that service to dial into it.  This, of course, they will happily do Monday through Friday between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., when it is well-nigh impossible for me to be there to plug the thing in.  Can't leave it connected, you see, because then it complains, loudly, every few minutes, asking, "PLEASE CHECK THE TELEPHONE CONNECTION.  PLEASE CHECK THE TELEPHONE CONNECTION," and who doesn't love that?

     Made of freaking win.  Or not.  Oh, Don Ameche, we hardly knew ye.  And we never appreciated what we had.

Yes, I Slept In

     It's twenty-four degrees out there.  24

     I've left a wake-up call for warm o'clock.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hungarian Wax Pepper

     "What's that called?" The asker was a grocery checker at a supermarket I visit infrequently, a man who appears hard-used by life and who, when asked, "How are you?" invariably responds, "Unstoppable!"

     He was stumped by the pepper, though, an innocent-looking, smallish, waxy-yellow vegetable.

     I wasn't much help at first.  "I'm not sure.  There wasn't a label on the bin...  It was next to the jalapenos.  It could be...a Hungarian pepper?"

     He'd left it for last; now he picked up the laminated list of obscure, un-barcoded vegetables, and scanned it rapidly.  "A Hungarian wax pepper?"

     A dim light came on in my head, like the tiny bulb in a 1940s Shelvador fridge.  "Yes!  That's it."

     "I think that's the first time anyone's bought a Hungarian wax pepper at my lane. Interesting."

*  *  *

     I'd been picking up the makings of "Hoppin' John" when I bought the pepper: diced ham, blackeyed peas, onion, a red bell pepper, a can of mild green chilies, some rice to serve it over.  The little hot pepper seemed like a good addition.  When I was making dinner, I offered Tam a taste, and she pronounced it delicious.  Raw, I found it a bit hot but not overwhelming.

     It turned out to be exactly right.  Diced and sauteed, it calmed down a little but retained a nicely flavorsome bite; I wish I'd bought one or two more.

     Recipe, it's nothing fancy; first dice and saute the fresh veggies.  I used half a white onion and half a red bell pepper along with all of the Hungarian wax pepper, starting with the onion and when it was getting translucent, added the peppers briefly.  Then pour in a can of blackeyed peas (drained and rinsed if you want to keep the sodium down) and the diced ham (some of the cheaper ham can benefit from a rinse, too), cover and heat well.  The mixture should be moist and will develop a bit of liquid.  Add water if it seems too dry.  Serve over rice.  Refinements?  Better ham, and/or fresh blackeyed peas, various interesting varieties of rice.  The basic version is fast, easy, filling and tasty. (If you start with fresh or dried legumes, they get first shift in the pot, for however long it takes 'til they are nearly done.  Ham next, then the sauteed veggies.)

     Tam pronounced it "delicious" and cleaned her bowl.  Given that she is not a big fan of either rice or blackeyed peas, I was pleased.

"Richmond Is A Hard Road To Travel"

     Interesting little Civil War (U.S.) tune:

     Y'get some of the best music from wars but it comes at too high a price.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Iron Horse Replaces Tin Bird?

  Pan Am -- remember Pan Am?  It's a railroad now.


     It almost sounds like a joke, or the opening scene of some wistful, nostalgic prose pastorale: two boys walking along an autumn trail with a pellet gun -- an air rifle! -- planning to hunt squirrels.  They were walking, in fact, up the long-gone Monon railroad line, right past the former blacksmith's shop where my Dad, at the ripe old age of 16, bought the bolt-action .22 rifle presently locked up right down the hall. (You could do that, back then.)

     That stretch of the path also passes within a few blocks of an elementary school, just then letting out.  Or, as the news story's lede puts it, "Two juveniles with a pellet gun prompted a lockdown at Orchard Park Elementary School...."  Yeah.

     The report ends, "Officers will be investigating the incident and will work with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office to determine if any charges should be filed."

     Gee, air gun, no shots fired, legally possessed.  Squirrel season runs from 15 August 2013 to 31 January, 2014.*  Looks to me like the young would-be squirrel-hunters should be in the clear (barring any age-ist BB-gun nonsense buried in state law).  Can the school administrators be charged with reckless endangerment?  Hysteria? Arrant damfoolishness?  One could hope -- but don't hold your breath.
* With  daily bag limit of five.  We're in no danger of running out; every year, squirrels produce a couple of litters of three pups each and,  as DNR observes, while  "[s]quirrels produce fewer offspring than other mammals..." they "...are more successful in rearing them."  Ma and Pa squirrel are a little too successful for their own good. With few natural checks-- a squirrel is a match for most cats (at least the local red or fox squirrels are) -- Man's got to maintain the balance.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


     We were once again treated to the outpouring of horror and magnificently-simulated grief over the assassination of John F. Kennedy, most of it from journalists who were unconceived, unborn or in diapers when it happened.  (But oh, they've got People Who Were There to interview -- yet again.)

     Once again, we're told that it was the worst, the most terrible thing that ever happened to a U. S. President, in all of history--

     And that, as H. L. Mencken might've said, is utter buncombe.  While no President -- or any other law-abiding citizen -- deserves to be shot down, especially as long as there's an independent press and the process of impeachment available, it's an amazing coincidence that the only one they've got on film and tape is somehow the very worst.

     Yeah, right.  Consider Lincoln, who was assassinated in the actual (defective) course of an actual conspiracy, for which eight people were eventually convicted and four were hanged.  Consider James A. Garfield, suffering though eleven weeks of increasingly dire infection before dying in agony, or William McKinley, lingering for days before sucumbing to gangrene.  If there's a scale of terribleness, someone else is going to have to rank these untimely deaths -- but not on the basis of which one offers the most compelling video.

     Perspective: it's a terrible thing to lose and a worse thing to never have had.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


     I dunno.
     It's what happens when I clean a couple of fountain pens with a quick dip in distilled water and then drop a square of paper onto the swirl.

It's Always Watching

     It takes a picture every two seconds, and tags it and indexes it, too.  And they'd like to sell you one.

    I'm not sure if it's kewl or deeply disturbing.  Probably both.  Log your life!  Stick the data in the cloud!  Early aviators feared "clouds filled with rocks."  There may be worse hazards lurking in ours.

Monday, November 18, 2013

After The Storm And Just Before

ETA: I'm surprised no one noticed the airplane.


W For Welles

     Sunday, as the storms roared through, I had the pleasure of introducing Tam to the Orson Welles "free-form documentary," F For Fake.

     If you've never seen it, it's something of a precursor to Penn & Teller's Bullshit!* (right down to the use of magic as a...metaphor?), something of an art movie about art and a fake about fakers, and contains several splendid Welles monologues, with the spot-on timing and intonation that makes him such a pleasure to listen to.  To tell you too much about the work would be to spoil the fun -- while it is at times self-indulgent, the payoff makes it worthwhile and in the meantime, you're carried along on a trip through times and places you'd've otherwise never have seen.

     Heck, Tam didn't even fall asleep.
* While I'm reluctant to use rough language, that is the title of the series and the pair have put forward an excellent reason why.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And The Award For Best Borrowed Riff--

     To Veronica Varlow, Sail-ing her way between nostalgia and the unguessable future. (Snark aside, it's a nice listen, somewhere between an essay and Aerosmith's proto-rap.)

Ow. Ow, Ow (Leaf-Raking)

     Tam and I cleared the front yard yesterday, raked up all the leaves.  Viola!  Well, more of a cello, really, lumbering and sad as a small, lost pachyderm, picking out a minor-key melody of turning seasons and cold winds to follow:
A few more leaves have fallen since and there are more to come (lo, the mighty oak has not yet relinquished its leafy thralls) but the big job is done.  Just in time for predicted violent weather -- wind gusts possibly as high as 70 mph!  (That's 31.29 m/sec for the Euro contingent).

     The job is not without benefits: along the no-man's-land between sidewalk and street, hidden under leaves gold, brown and shameless red, the year's last few violets are quietly blooming, dreaming still of a summer now well-lost.
     Meanwhile, my back is reminding me of many summers lost, that I'm no longer young -- and that I really need to buy a new mattress soon.  Couldn't even sit up in bed this morning, had to roll on my side and let my legs drop to the floor.  The hot pad has helped and I believe a decent breakfast might, too.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Panic On The Ball State Campus

     The news was full of images from a circling helicopter over Ball State University last night, police cars from at least three different agencies (university, city and state) were littering the streets and sidewalk, armed officers leading crowds of students, even more heavily-armed ones going through a couple of buildings room-by-room, occasionally glimpsed via telephoto lens through a window or door--

     Had a madman mowed down innocents in a blaze of horror?  Were there, as early reports claimed, hostages?


     Was there an actual gun?

     No one is sure.

     What did happen was a student in the Rec and Wellness Center yelled, "GUN!"  And the the building got cordoned off, much of the campus was locked down and every available officer -- and the news media -- descended on the area.  After three hours of worry and consternation, nothing was found.

     Bank robbers of America and would-be terrists from all over, please do not take note.

     Much like happened earlier this year at IUPUI, when someone reported seeing a man with a long gun on the campus, the school was put on "lockdown," massive police presence followed and nothing turned up.  (There's been speculation that the incident at IUPUI was the result of someone quite legally securing a firearm in the trunk of their vehicle, but no one has come forward.)

     News coverage of bent half-wits mowing down unsuspecting students have resulted in this kind of over-reaction, with multiple police agencies combing through maze-like campuses and buildings.  Unless great care is taken in communication and coordination, sooner or later it's going to result in a blue-on-blue incident.  Students are no more careful of their words and actions than they've ever been and all it takes is for someone to want a little attention or get careless with a toy gun and--  wham.  Lockdown.  Staties and Officer Friendly and the Campus Cops stalking the halls with what one reporter correctly pointed out as "assualt rifles" and we can only hope their radios all have at least one shared channel and somebody's keeping track of who's where.

     ("Lockdowns" bother me, too -- that's what they do with unruly convicts at prisons, no?  OTOH, some BSU students were collecting outside the police barricades with cups of coffee, chatting with reporters and playing lookie-lou, so it's not quite a large-scale edition of the Stanford Prison Experiment, at least not yet; but save your Zimbardo faceplam, it's coming.)

     Big News Coverage -- of a big nothing.  A big needlessly-endangering nothing, reinforcing the lesson to college students that, should they see someone with a firearm, the correct response is to call the police and shelter in place.  Is that really what they ought to be doing?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Spy Logic

     Only a spy agency would find one of its own dead, padlocked into a gym bag in his own bathtub, and declare it to be "most probably" a solo accident.  (Squickful descriptions.)

     Okay, then; they're all Room 101 at this hotel, aren't they?

Is It Usually This Noisy Inside Your Head?

     The Optimist declares this is the best of all possible worlds.

     The Pessimist fears he is right.

     The Persimmon is a fruit.

     (And despite what you readers of The Onion might think, the Gaekwad is -- or was -- the ruler of a portion of India, don'cha know.)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Conversation From A Breakfast

     Half of a conversation, anyway, as a large and striped yellow tomcat stands up and pats the edge of the table, hoping I won't notice:

     "Why yes, Huck, French Toast: the housecat's normal prey."

     Huck says nothing, just sits back and gazes up at me with a confident expression.

     "Oh, all right, I suppose milk, eggs and 'butter' do count," since cats don't know from margarine, "But not bread, sugar, cinnamon or vanilla!"

     Huck continues to stare, now joined by Rannie doing her best impression of a black-velvet painting of a sad-eyed child.  A tiny flake of nicely browned French Toast escapes my fork and both cats track it but -- ha! -- they're too slow.  I catch it before it hits the floor and they both turn and stalk off, every step as eloquent as a stereotyped Sax Rohmer villain: "You have foiled us this time, Nayland Smith, but we will return...!"  And thus depart the beautiful, wicked Celestial and the giant tiger that is her closest (if not always appreciated) companion.  Or something.

     (This morning's menu: French Toast, a strip and a half of bacon and a Roseholme Tomato Cup, which is a very large cherry tomato or very small regular one quartered, seasoned with a bit of "Montreal Steakhouse" mix and served in a tiny bowl.  Juice and coffee or, for Tam, some heart-racing energy drink, 'cos snarkin' ain't easy.)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


     The Wall Street Journal piece on stopping the next publicity-seeking fool with a firearm that I linked to Sunday last is now seeing widespread linky-love in the gun-blogosphere.  Good; it's a meme that needs to be spread far and wide.

     Stop making them famous! 

     Yes, cover it -- it's news. But stop treating these jumped-up failures like they were Pol Pot or Charles Manson.  Stop with the six-day grief-fest on national news and instead promote healing.  If the media and their fave pols want to hand out some more gun-control rants, fine; but don't pretend these sickies are some new Everyman, or that we could stop them by melting down all the AR-15s that ever were.

"Cold Enough For You?"

     It's 19° F this morning.  Nineteen degrees!  Okay, okay, Indiana is well north of the sunshine line -- Tam still calls the region "cold, frozen North Yankeeland" -- but for November, this is ridiculous.

     C'mon, Al, where's that global warmening now that I need it?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


     Not the earliest snow in Indiana, I'm told.  But it usually waits until after Thanksgiving; there's usually time to get the left-for-last back yard leaves raked at least once before they share sidewalk space with snow.  Not this year!  
     (I've somehow got the timestamp in my smallest camera running four hours fast -- this is from 10:00 last night.)

     Huck's trying to convince me that tigers do too hibernate -- and that I should, too.  He may be wrong on the facts but it's an appealing idea.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life Hacks/Food Hacks/It's Snowing At Roseholme Cottage

     For the really kitchen/skills-impaired:

     1. Ungrilled cheese sandwich: Toast two slices of bread deep golden-brown.  Stck two or three slices of cheese in between them and microwave the whole thing to 10 to 15 seconds or until the cheese is just barely melted.  Microwave time is critical -- run it too long and you will produce a terrifying cheese-lava that no sane person gets near their mouth!  But when you get it right, it's very nearly as good as the real thing, at least twice as fast and you don't even need to own a skillet.  Zap some tomato soup to go with and you're home free.

     2. Apple un-pie: A good sweet apple and whatever kind of store-bought ginger-thing comes to mind, from ginger snaps to gingerbread.  Alternate bites and the taste is close to home-made apple pie.  (I suspect some careful experiments with the microwave might pay dividends here, too.  Warm sliced apples and cookies, topped with some ice cream or, for you barbarians, cheddar....)

     These superfast comfort-food thoughts came to mind tonight as I gazed out the kitchen window at the season's first snowfall.  It's melting as it hits (so far) but this is very early for snow here and something to warm the soul is a comfort.  (I made sizzleburgers, grass-fed ground beef with a tiny dollop of European-style butter and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce at the center, cooked medium and served on a kaiser roll with thin-sliced onion and good condiments, chili sauce and deli mustard. Side salad and sliced Valencia orange for dessert.  Yum!)


     It is, as I point out most years, Armistice Day.  The day has been repurposed, nobly enough, but along about 1100, you might want to stop for a minute, stop and remember why and who; stop and remember the war that shaped the world you grew up in and the men who fought and fell in it, the war that, finally, staggered to a stop at 11:00 a.m., 11 November, 1918

PTSD: Not An Acronym For "What's In It For Me?"

     Several police officers in Newton, CT -- men who were among the first responders to the school shooting -- are now claiming PTSD.  One of them has apparently never returned to work and NBC spent some time with him and his attorney in TV this morning, murmuring and exchanging troubled glances.

     But that's not the disturbing part; that's just Big Media business as usual: grope for your heartstrings and yank as hard as they dare, then sell you tires and toothpaste while you're vulnerable.

     No, the disturbing part is that some of these officers want to be sent home on full pay until they reach retirement age 'cos of their new disability. Newtown's insurance covers two year's pay, leaving the town stuck paying more than one officer for more than ten years of... Not policing.  Being mopey.

     There was a time when any policeman worthy of the name would die of shame rather than admit to being defeated by a single horrible crime scene (listen to some corners of the blogitariate and they'll tell it's still like that, only worse; that all cops are headcases who revel in blood and death.  At least we can now mark that theory debunked).  There was once a time when even public servants strove to give full value for their pay.

     Those days are gone.  Gone, too, are the days when a strong man could stand up and admit he'd been emotionally overwhelmed by a terrible situation, but he was determined to overcome it.  Nope, now we've got policemen who go on TV and choke back tears, sitting next to legal counsel and hoping, oh, hoping their employer will see the light, and send them home to sleep in, eat chocolates, watch soap operas and weep.  And they'll take 'em to court if they don't.

     I have a great deal of compassion for the adults and children who survived the attack at the elementary school.  Teachers don't expect to face anything much worse than playground accidents and upset tummies.  But police?  No, I'm sorry. Dreadfulness comes with the job. If you can't return to work, Mr. Officer, you'd better learn another trade, not lean on the taxpayers to keep your delicate self in contemplative idleness forevermore or until your pension kicks in.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

WSJ: "How To Stop (Future) Mass Shooters"

     Very interesting piece from The Wall Street Journal two days ago, giving much the same advice on getting the mass-shooter meme damped down that I have suggested: stop making them famous.

     Ari N. Schulman goes into greater, fascinating, detail and except for a single ill-informed line about "...widespread availability of guns and high-capacity magazines designed more for offense than for defense," he not only gets the idea we've got to stop making these grotty little weasels into antiheroes, he backs it  up with psych cites.  It's worth a read.


     Giant Radiating Dike Swarms.  All over the world.  You'd better read up.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

"Where is this?"

     You can't get it on DVD.  They never released it on tape.  Hulu doesn't stream it.  Steven Spielberg, barely out of his teens, directed it and when I first saw it as an impressionable pre-teen (and already an SF reader), I knew it was something out of the ordinary.

     LA 2017, an episode of The Name Of The Game and  one of the better pieces of science fiction found on the small screen in the dim dark days of the previous century,* is on YouTube.  It's a low-rez transfer of an NTSC original, but you can follow the Philip Wylie eco-fable, trite now but hot, hot stuff back in 1971, and get a good sense for how Spielberg told the tale:
     Ah, the good old days and the staggering web of assumptions once taken for granted and now dropped like hot rocks -- or dead birds. But that crazy Spielberg kid sure could direct. 

     (Keep your eyes open for a familiar face or two in minor roles.)
* When everyone smoked and we ate plastic.  Or something. 

"All [TAG HERE] Are Inherently Evil And Violent."

     Sometimes, the title I've used is true -- when it's a tautology.

     So, what if we fill in the blank with the word "Police?"

     There are plenty of people who'll nod sagely, or even give you a raised fist and a "Right on," though the latter are a dying breed.  Ask kids in tough neighborhoods, kids in the process of finalizing the choice of the .gov-issue orange jumpsuit or not, and they'll agree: the cops are The Enemy, a monolithic, blank-eyed wall of No.

     On the other hand, if you define a group by their enemies, maybe that means the police are a-OK, shining bastions of Order and Decency.  After all, aren't their real enemies criminals?

     One father thought so, and he set 'em on his son after Sonny-boy grabbed the truck to get a pack of smokes; in fact, Papa reported the vehicle as stolen. This, not unexpectedly, caused police hearts in Ames, Iowa to quicken and when the young driver commenced to speed off rather than pull over, things got bad.  Things went from bad to worse after he repeatedly attempted to ram pursuing police cars (go watch the video) and he ended up being herded to a stop well off-road where he'd led them and shot.  Dead.

     Does a kid who takes the car (a marked work truck, in this case) unasked deserve to die?  Aw, c'mon: No.  ("Kid:" He was 19, in those awkward three years between being allowed to vote and allowed to drink to forget what kind of jerk you voted for.)

     Okay, trick question: Does a kid who borrows the car to run to the store deserve to be hunted down as a car thief?  No?  Okay, who set the police on this young man?

     Police aren't mind readers.  They aren't even especially special; they're just people, people whose jobs put them in proximity to the wicked, naughty and intellectually lazy of mankind a lot more than they meet gems of breeding and refinement like you and -- ahem -- me.  They're manifestly not babysitters.  When you give them limited, inaccurate information (to "teach...a lesson") and things take a violent turn, y'know who's to blame?   Hint: probably not the men you lied to.

     Oh, they were holding the guns -- holding them on what they were told was A Car Thief, and indeed, acted like a particularly desperate car thief; but the man who put them there is now saying the truck wasn't really stolen.  Too late.

     When you have a hammer -- and you spend all day hammering nails -- what do you suppose you're going to do the next time someone hands you a nail?  How much difference is it going to make in the outcome when, after you've sunk the thing, they tell you, "Wait, wait, that was really a deck screw!"*  And they'll call you a brute for whacking it with the same tools you use every day.

     The incident has led to a number of oh-the-horrid-police articles.  It's certainly a bad outcome and there's no question who did the shooting.  But anyone who fails to understand the very basic principle, "If you make the police come after you, they're bringing a beating," doesn't grasp human nature.  Hey, surprise, we get some tough guys (and gals) in the police; we get people who act decisively on limited information and sometimes we get suboptimal outcomes.  They're not trained dogs.  They're not therapists.  They're not your best bud and -- as long as they don't think you're up to no good -- they're not your enemy. On average, they are no more "thugs" than the culture in which they are embedded -- and feeding them false information just about ensures you're not going to get the results you were after.

     In a couple of places, people are pointing out that policemen reportedly score pretty high (as a group) on tests for psychopathology -- along with politicians, journalists, generals and other groups that rely on emotional "distance" to do their jobs.  Okay, say it's true (it may even be necessary).  In that case, why would you want to feed 'em lies or go poking at them?

     Peel wrote it over a hundred years ago and it's still true: "The police are the public and the public are the police;" they reflect the society of which they are a part. If you're having issues with police attitudes and behavior, you're having issues with the behavior and attitudes of your culture as a whole, and you need to put your shoulder against that wheel before you've got a ghost of a chance of moving the one incribed with a thin blue line.  (And, perverse though it may seem to both you and them, you need to be ensuring police remain a part of the greater society, and see themselves that way.  When it became more efficient to stick cops in cars instead of walking a beat, it got a lot easier to fall into "us vs. them" thinking on both sides of the windshield.  The societal price is probably a lot higher than anyone realizes.)

     --And don't go tryin' to use the police's time and your neighbor's taxes to "teach your kid a lesson."  That's not their function.  People get killed that way.
* Sounds obvious, right?  Framing nail, deck screw--  It ain't.  They're about the same size.  They're about the same color.  Spend a few hours wielding a framing hammer -- wearing gloves, right, 'cos you want to protect your hands -- and you may find yourself whacking a deck screw in, too.  Pine 2x4s don't like that, by the way, though sometimes you can get away with it.

Friday, November 08, 2013


    I had something in mind to write when I woke up, but it's gone.  Tam is back to her usual self, at least, and had a pot of coffee made before I was even out of my warm nest.  (Where I had cats sleeping on me most of the night.  Since my old cats slept on or near me most of their lives -- Janie and Slinky were particularly convinced I was a piece of furniture -- this made for an especially restful night. Spend 15+ years with cats who sleep on you, warm purring comforters, and you miss them very badly when they're gone.)

     Now Rannie is jumping up on my desk (breakfast is over, so she's allowed -- if she's good) and complaining bitterly when I have the effrontery to actually pet her.  She hopped back to the floor and I held out a hand; she smoothed in my fingers a couple if times, then tried a gentle, experimental bite before concluding that actually biting one of the food-monkeys might not be in her best interest.

     Back to what passes for normal around here.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Tam's Sick

     And me, I have been better.  She's zonked out in my room, (better sickroom, with a watch-from-bed TV, reading lamp, convenient to cats and the loo), so looks like I get the futon.

Off To The Dentist

     Alas, nothing in the blog-queue has quite gelled.  I'm pretty sure the dentist thing is just a cleaning -- oh, the fun we have!  Still, it's a field of endeavor where the state of the art has advanced markedly, especially in recent years.  And the chairs are comfy.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

You Know What Else You Can See From Outer Space?

     On the ISS, they don't need optics to see the sound of rears being covered at Guns & Ammo, where Dick "maybe a little more regulation?" Metcalfe has -- ahem -- moved on from the editorship and is presumably pursuing his inner Zumbo. (Some excepts from the original editorial, here.)

     Y'know, every time I go to the range, I see people who ought to shoot better -- and would, if they'd slow down and take some advice from the range officers.  In the event of emergency, I'm not sure how they'd do, though around 98 percent of them know to keep their fool finger off the go-bang hook until they're ready to make that happen.  99 percent of them know to keep the firearm pointed down range and the other one percent just got yelled at and know it now.  It'd be pretty kewl if I could wave a magic wand -- or a magic law -- and make them learn better, safer gun-handling and acquire good aim.

     But it doesn't work that way.  You can stick 'em in a class, and many will glumly tough it out; you can herd them out onto the firing line at the range and drill them sufficiently to drill a large target at Tueller-drill distances -- that day.  But you can't make 'em drill enough to inculcate habitual safe, accurate behavior; they'll either seek out more instruction and strive to practice good habits, or they won't.  They're free citizens and the safety record of shooting ranges in this country speaks to an adequate level of training -- but no more than that.  That's as good as it's going to get.

     Dick Metcalfe indulged in a little wishful thinking.  It backfired.  Badly.  "Be certain of your target and what's behind it," it says right here -- and he wasn't. 

Politico Discovers Gun-Friendly Talk Radio

     Madcap highjinks -- and looking-with-alarm -- ensue.

Mom: Back Home

     They sent Mom home last evening; my sister took her back to the double-bar X ranch (or whatever Mom's place is called; Full Circle, perhaps, as the moderately upscale neighborhood she and Dad retired to is only a few blocks from the once family-owned building where they lived as newlyweds over some leased-out storefronts and a gas station and restaurant my uncles ran, back when where she lives now was nothing by wide-open farm fields -- and the house Dad grew up in still stood two doors down from their first apartment until a few years ago).

     Mom's in good spirits, having "only" (?) cracked part of the interesting projections of a couple a spinal bones, a rib and gotten well-bruised.  Nothing you can splint, pin together or put in a cast and she heals well; treatment will consist of moving carefully and being wary of further falls.

     I'm well-buried with work and having to make up lost time; I've asked Tam to stop by up there noonish (with a couple of wonderful Aurora Golden Gala apples, easily the best snacking apple you'll find in supermarkets just now and I'm wondering what they'd do in a pie -- bestow happiness, most likely) and I'll make my appearance after sundown.

     Looks like Mom's going to agree to one of those page-the-responders widgets, a on a breakaway lanyard she can wear, one button away from help.  I'm happy to take her calls but we need to ensure she gets help quickly when she needs it.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Mom: Back In The Hospital

     Mom took a nasty little fall yesterday morning; she called me right before shower time.  I asked if she'd called 911:

     "Oh, I don't think they could get in; I locked more than just the lock they keep a key for."

     "Call them anyway!  They'll get in.  I'll bring Tam and she'll guard the house if they have to break in." 

     Mom was kind of uncertain about that plan, though she did say she'd call.

     I threw on clothes while giving Tam a quick update; we left in haste.  Sure enough, Mom had locked  both locks on one door and had the chain on the other as well as the deadbolt I have a key for.

     Those chains?  They're really more like a hint.  One solid sole-of-foot kick from a worried middle-aged woman in average health and they pop right off.

     Mom was in bed, having got there from the site of her fall. (!)  She was in good spirits, alert and oriented but  had not called 911; in fact, her VOIP phones, damn them, just go back to spitting out dial tone after the last "1" when you try.  (WTH, AT&T?  I thought you solved that?)  Her cell phone was right next to her; I used that and the usual first response guys arrived in record time.

     The bottom line: a couple of cracked bones in her lumbar spine and a damaged rib.  She'll be in the hospital for awhile.

     Whether you call it "prayer" or "thinking good thoughts," I'd be obliged if you spare a word for her.  Does it work?  Hey, it can't hurt.

Breakfast: So Good, So Wrong

     You shouldn't have it every day, but--

     An omelet filled with manchego cheese, sliced black olives and bacon is delicious!  Splash a little hot sauce on that and you are eatin' like royalty.  I crumbled some broken corn chips in the eggs on general principles -- chips, splash of Worcestershire, bigger splash of cold water, let it sit a spell, then add eggs and administer a sound thrashing.

     (I am once again goggled at the people who tell me 90 percent of all attempted omelets end up as scrambled eggs.  C'mon, how hard can it be?  I don't turn out works of art but you pour it into a slightly greased non-stick pan, give it a bit to start cooking, offset the pan, load up the side farthest from the heat, and turn the unloaded side onto it as soon as the top is firm enough.  Re-center the pan on the burner, cook, done.)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Of Cats And "Tiny Birds"

     I was in the kitchen just now, slicing a rare and delicious yellow apple from the grocer's (seriously, this variety, a cross between the Golden Delicious and something obscure, tastes like honey-infused sunshine; I've never had better) when Rannie began looking up and singing the The Bird Song: "Enh, Enh, wheeeeeeeeenh, wheeeeeeengh...."

      Whatever it was was invisible-- no, there at the light fixture: a small, gray moth.

     "It's just a moth, Rannie.  You don't really want it."

     She shot me a skeptical look and went back to tracking, singing of bird-biting with a quivering jaw, "Wah-aaaaaanh, eeeeeenh, aaaaangh...."

     I made a swipe at the moth, missed, and it fluttered off.  Rannie left in disgust, making complaining noises. Sure hope I can find the darned thing before the cats get more serious about taking it on the wing.

     ETA: Got the moth right before bedtime -- went to get a bottle of water for bedside and it was lurking on the basement door.  (Happy to have removed it; yesterday one of my co-workers was unnerved by a pantry infestation of moths and brought one in in a pill bottle, wondering what it could be.  She called a local exterminator who told her what they were and how to deal with it -- a fix that did not require the exterminator's services.  That put Gold Seal Pest Control squarely on my good list.)

Speaking Truth To...Whoever

     Call me heartless.  Call her foul-mouthed.  Whatever -- The Unwanted Blog has posted a video by a woman who tells it like it is.

     Money quote: "Public assistance is not a career option...."

Sunday, November 03, 2013

About Lunatics Who Shoot Up The Innocent

     I said it in 2010 about one would-be famous shooter-of-the-unsuspecting and it still stands for all of them:
Me, I do not so much care about his reasons -- there's no fixing this sort of thing by understanding it -- what I see is an individual who walked up to the rather low fence at at edge of civilized behavior, said, Screw that, and jumped over. Such persons have stopped being people in any meaningful way and joined mad dogs, plague, misplaced wolf packs and trash-raiding bears as threats; they should be dealt with as rabid dogs are. They can take their motives [...] into whatever next life awaits 'em. We don't need 'em here.
     There seems to be a big scramble every time one of these happens in the U.S. as everyone digs to find out what the shooter's politics were.  I'll tell you what they are, always, for all of them: barbarism.  They voted by initiating violence against others; they voted for blood and death, against civilization and life.

     Anybody out there, Left, Right, Center, Up or Down who's been saying, "It's on," you better look real close: that's the kind of mess you appear to be hoping for, only turned up to eleven and combined with power failures, bad water and doors and teeth getting kicked in.  It ain't "on," not in any kind of way that can be fixed by armed conflict, and if you think that's a real good option and you're gonna be cock-o-the-walk when it hits, maybe you should go ask folks in the Balkans.

     There's still a lot of voting and marching and soap-boxing to be done and we'd all better best be doing it, and workin' on lovin' our neighbors -- even though they be fools -- all the while, too.

Sudden Insight

     The ancient Egyptians, as a matter of policy, did not let non-Egyptians have cats, not ever.  Especially not to take home.

     No doubt some cats snuck away anyhow but consider: this makes ancient Egypt, land of a society running on economics and imperatives nobody has quite worked out, land of vast stone structures and arcane, even incomprehensible gods, the crazy-old-lady cat-hoarders of the ancient world.

     Explains rather a lot, I think.

Saturday, November 02, 2013


     Tam and I went to see the film this afternoon.  I'm not normally much of a big-screen person; with a 42" at home, why go rent a seat at preposterous prices when you can watch at home?

     This movie, is why.  I suppose the story could be told without 3-D, but not nearly as effectively; and this film makes the best use of 3D I have yet seen, including some unobtrusive but amazing-in-hindsight POV shifts.

     I think it's the best SF film I have seen, period -- Tam argues it's not Science Fiction at all, "No more than The Hunt for Red October," which I think may yet contain a kernel of ambiguity. 

     Whatever.  We agree it's a good movie.  Are there some physics blips?  Yep.  Can continuity nits be picked?  Barely.  Thing is, no one has ever done it better, which is a helluva a trick for a film that includes the kind of deadly "meteor shower" rarely seen outside of B movies.  Go.  See.  Your disbelief will remain suspended; the Soyuz interior is on-model, the Chinese spacecraft works (IIRC, they even got the Service Module right), the whole thing makes sense.

     A downside for me was a blasting musical score that tended to oversell dramatic moments.  Could be an artifact of the particular theater we saw the film at but for my taste, the music could have been 10 dB softer* compared to dialog and SFX or even largely eliminated and the film would still be at least as heart-grabbing.
Make no mistake, it will grab you and if you're a techie like me, you'll try to grab right back.  I was actually physically on the edge of my seat at several points in the movie.

     Gravity: worth your time and money.
* One-tenth as loud, that is. 

Doing The Right Thing

     There's a standard pysch test where you're asked what you'd do if you found an addressed, stamped, unsent envelope laying on the sidewalk and the normal answer (for those of you who might be wondering, a-hem) is that you'd put it in the mail.

     What if you found a headstone in the trash?  A man in Texas did just that and started a long search to find where it belonged.  The marker was that of a veteran only ten years deceased and after a lot of looking by people with no motivation other than goodness and decency, it's in the right place now.

     Remember that the next time someone tells you how nasty-mean everybody is these days.

The Toilet-Paper Wedding Dress

     It's a staple of bridal showers, boys, and you've surely heard of it: you team up, you're issued a bog-roll or three, the timer starts and-- Go!  Whoever's assembled the best creation at the end of the allotted time wins.

     It's a way of defusing the scary-solemn occasion looming over the bride-to-be, a sea-change looming like a tidal wave, a thin defense against an onrushing future.

     It's also a metaphor for the Transportation Security Administration.  TSA, the boys and girls in blue and white who keep you safe when you travel -- and who have turned out to be just as much use when things go pear-shaped as a toilet-paper wedding dress in a tidal wave.

     I'm not blaming the TSA agents; they bore the brunt of the madman's ire, armed with their normal empty hands and  barely-adequate training and y'know what?  They did all right; by what I can find, they didn't flee or cower.  Nope, I blame the fools who decided the appearance of security was more important than the hard and dirty work of actually securing airports, who stuck unarmed "security" workers without arrest powers right out in the open,* who decided rope-on-sticks courtesy barriers were as good as solid walls--

     It was a three-names nutjob who did the harm but it was temporizing twits in Washington D.C. who made it possible, men and women for whom the appearance is as good as the reality, if not better, and who figured some updated Gilbert & Sullivan would play just fine at airports.  ...At least until reality showed just how unhappy a fake-policeman's lot could be.

     You may wonder at my taking the occasion of death and injury to editorialize.  I'm in good company -- an agency spokesman is using the death of TSA's Gerardo I. Hernandez to shill for bigger budgets and more personnel.  Classy.

     (As a matter of policy, this blog does not use the names of mass shooters.  I will not help make the sickies famous.) 
* Seriously, are they supposed to be sacrificial targets, or what?  If you want to see how cheapskate commercial outfits deal with unarmed workers in high-risk areas, visit the liquor stores and 24-hour gas stations in the tough neighborhoods.  The cashier's behind a locked door and a few inches of bullet-resistant plastic.  TSA agents can be damned annoying, officious busybodies who sometimes make up rules when they're not sure and push people around because they can, but that rates a letter to their boss and the editor of your local birdcage liner, not death.  Either make 'em cops or treat them at least as carefully as the low-wage cashier at the Quickee-Mart, the in-between stuff isn't working.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Banksy In New York

     I don't know, maybe he is a vandal; he's certainly not in the habit of asking permission, pretty-please may I, before graffiting.  On the other hand, after he has struck, the property-owner (if any!) is left with a genuine Banksy, and his work does have some bank.  He's something akin to the fellow who drives by your home and throws a bag of gold coins -- through the window glass.

     The artist has spent a month or so in New York City.  No matter what you might think of the man, his art, or the manner in which he practices it, his work is most definitely art and keenly-observed art at that.  Sure, he's got good technical chops, but so does the guy who paints vignettes on vans down at the auto-body.  Nope, IMO what makes it art is the application of those skills to depict visions like a robot executing the exact kind of tagging you'd expect a robot to do (if you'd thought of it first), in a world where, after all, objects are so tagged, and indeed read by robots.  Or to see a bricked-up arch as a Japanese bridge and get you to see it, too.

     I enjoy the backhanded beneficence of creating these things and just leaving them--  It is a kind of meta-advertising (and here I am, participating in it) that exploits and subverts traditional channels of information; reflecting his art in a holographic way, it, too, is carefully-observed and deftly used.

     And perhaps that's it, the bit that goes beyond technical skill or artistic eye and judgement: his work as a whole is something of a well-played magic act, complete with the mystery of what he might be up to next and how will he accomplish it.