Monday, June 30, 2014

Rannie, The Food Critic

     I am pleased to have discovered there is one (1) additional brand of olive oil Rannie Wu will accept.  Well, the same brand, different variety: Bertolli "Light."  The were out of Bertolli "Classico," so I tried it instead.

     Most of the other brands she has rejected in the past were either Extra Virgin, which I think is too strong-flavored for her, or they have a kind of bitter taste.  Bertolli gets consistently good reviews for flavor and purity.  Even by critics who aren't cats.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Internet Likes Gun Pictures...

     Here's mine, from a trip to Eagle Creek Range with The Data Viking yesterday:

     My Hi-Standard nine-shooter and S&W "kit gun" ("Combat Masterpiece," IIRC), double-action .22 revolvers because there's still no better practice sidearm to build good habits.
[That preposterous moment when you realize that not only is the world so rough you're worried you may die standing in a big pile of brass, it's so petty that it's probably going to be a pile of .22 brass.  And you'll have gone broke buying it.]
     Target from one bout, at 7 yards: statistically, I'm an okay shot--

     Target I shot at the same distance with DV's remarkable Hi-Standard model G-E .22 target pistol:
     A few words about that particular iron: they were only made between 1946-50 and only 2,900 were made; $1500 is a pretty typical price if you find one.  His has the longer 6.75" barrel and one of the nicest sets of target grips I've held.  You're probably wondering, "Fifteen hundred dollars?  What's it got that a Colt or a Ruger .22 hasn't got?"  Take another look at that target.  I am a slightly above-average shot.  There are five holes in that paper, my first five shots with it, ever.  One is unmarked at about 5:30 at the edge of the gray at top left, followed by one just at the edge of the black on the same radial, then shots centered in the large target, centered in the top-center and not too far off at top right.  The only instruction from the Data Viking was that the sight picture was set to have the point of aim just above the sights and not covered by them as is now typical.  Most good .22s are more accurate than the person shooting them -- this Hi-Standard G-E hauls the shooter up to its level.  If that's typical of the breed, it goes a long way to explain why they sell for four or five times the price of a Ruger Mk. II or III.

     I also brought my one of my Colt .32-20s, which makes a fine loud noise and puts holes in the paper where I aim it -- with the teeny-tiny sights, so let's just say my Standard isn't quite as Hi with it. (See also the scatter of hits around twelve o'clock on the wide image of the target, above.)

     All in all, a fun way to pass the mid-day, especially on the covered firing line in on-and-off rain
Seven of the ten lanes in the East half of Eagle Creek Park Range -- it's a police range all week and a public range on the weekends.  These days, they even share a classroom and washrooms in the range office, a big improvement in facilities.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


     Why:  The two most sure ways to have the media use all three of your names are to be either a female judge/elected government attorney or a male political assassin or mass killer?

     Sarah Evans Barker, Virginia Dill McCarty, meet John Wayne Gacy and Lee Harvey Oswald.


And It's Off--

     Much as predicted, the stay on same-sex marriages requested by the State Attorney General's office has been granted.  Tolja you'd better write a check for your side if you had one, though it appears the wallets and pocketbooks of taxpayers have been drafted on the don't-let-them-wed side.

     A couple of observation: according to the AG's office (and vigorously debated by the newly-wed and their supporters), this leaves recognition of the initial batch of new spouses (and out-of-state same-sex marriages) in limbo, including, one assumes, the "poster girl" case that prompted the curent ruling:

     "Last month, the state of Indiana asked Judge Young to lift his order requiring Indiana to recognize the out-of-state marriage of Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who is terminally ill.
     "The couple wants their Massachusetts marriage recognized on Quasney's death certificate. She has stage 4 ovarian cancer."

     Heart-rending stories are not a sound basis for laws but you'd have to have a heart of stone to read that and feel nothing.

     Meanwhile out in the rough and tumble world of real politics, petitions have been signed and delivered in their tens of thousands, signs have been waved, various experts and human-interest subject have been interviewed and nobody's fighting in the streets.  That's actually remarkable, and yet the lack of violence is so common in even the most deeply-divisive issues that it passes without notice.  Consider that even the most yammerheaded types on each side of this issue, decrying the uncivilized immorality and awfulness of their opponents, aren't heading out with baseball bats, brick bats or Molotov cocktails, they're writing letters, making phone calls, holding petition drives, lobbying, praying -- and the most dangerous thing any of 'em have picked up are little candles for a vigil.  --Call it what you like; I call it amazing.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Remember The Spider

     So, trash is out, air-conditioning got fixed yesterday -- or at least recharged; there's a tiny leak somewhere and it's probably in the condenser coil -- and my car is repaired, also for a given value of "repair" given its age and condition.

       Which is not to impugn the mechanic.  Based on the symptoms, he had much the same first diagnosis I had, "something gone awry in the exhaust," but rapidly discovered my car was, in fact, only running on two cylinders thanks to a toasty ignition wiring harness.  He odds-and-endsed that back together (instead of the $900 all-the-copper-under-the-hood replacement kit the manufacturer sells) and it's back to running as well as it ever did.

     I do have about a mile-and-a-half bike ride between the U-haul place where I'll be renting the rental and the car-repair shop, much of it on busy streets, but I think I have a route mapped out through parking lots* and secondary roads that should avoid the very worst of it.

     Everything's going according to plan--  Walking through the kitchen yesterday, I reached up and pushed my hair back behind my right ear.  When I brought my hand down, I discovered I'd snagged the climbing-silk of one of those tiny, translucent "ghost spiders" that spin gossamer webs in ceiling corners in search of nearly-invisible insects -- and a visit by The Broom.  It was swinging to and fro, climbing back up the line knuckle over fist as quickly as it could go, unaware that at the top awaited not the ceiling but my hand.  (I gave my hand a flip and spider and web-strand sailed away; I'll broom 'em later, probably, but for today she's free.)  Think about it from the spider's perspective, something like a scene from one of those spy or crime films:

    The Spidress has carefully rigged lines so she can drop right down over the museum exhibit of The Treasures of E. Nugatoria and steal the Crown Jewels; the museum is quiet, empty and right at the stroke of midnight she begins to rappel down.  It's all just as she had planned and she relaxes as the cable slides through the rappelling brake. Then, suddenly-- Earthquake!  She's swinging like a pendulum, frantically braking to a halt, rigging ascenders, and climbing back up, unaware that agents of The Museum Board have grabbed the cable in the window-washer's crane and nothing but handcuffs await above.

      You're never more vulnerable than when you figure everything is right in the groove.
* Originally, "parking lost," which is what happens to me nearly every time I go to the mall.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Gay Marriage? In Indiana?

     Yep.  It happened.  Curiously, the sun rose right on schedule anyway.  If you are a same-sex couple and you do want to get married, better get down to the courthouse: the state Attorney General will be filing an appeal and he may ask has filed for a stay on the ruling. Whoever you are, if you were after a license to commit wedlock, expect BMV-like waiting lines without the BMV's nice waiting room and efficiency.

     State GOP politicians are cheering on the appeal and seem to be implying there's a circuit split (which would be an excellent reason to haul the mess up before the Supreme Court, who might even hear it -- I wonder how many appeals are refused after a Justice has a nightmare about Dred Scott?).  If there is a circuit split, I'm not finding it.

    The next step, according to some, will be dogs and cats living together, followed by Nazis riding dinosaurs, people marrying houseplants and legalized polyamorous unions -- I suspect the last strongly supported by the divorce attorney union in quivering anticipation of the financial resources of an 8-person marriage.* (Conversely, nobody older than age six really wants stormtroopers on T-Rexes goose-stepping down Main Street.  Common ground at last!)

     Supporters of both sides -- if they are serious about their support -- should remember that Their Team just had one not-inexpensive slog through the court system and is now facing another.  Better write your guys a check, they've got bills to pay.

     Let Round Three begin!  I'll make popcorn.

     ETA: From Kitchen v. Herbert, which is precedential in much of the U.S. West, this line (emphasis mine):  "The court noted that while the state electorate had voted in a popular referendum on the issue, a person's fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote, citing W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette." If it takes same-sex marriage to get that notion to percolate into the popular conscience, it might take away some of the sting for opponents.  Hasn't the right to keep and bear arms been found fundamental already?
* "Buy in bulk and save!"  One would expect more huddling-up when times are difficult, especially in this age of extended families no longer living in the same neighborhood.  This leads me to suspect the demand for more-formal polyamory is already well-matched to supply: pretty small.  The "If they legalize it, everyone will want to do it," argument is bilgewater: the people who want to already are.  One might apply this principle more widely....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Independant Publishing: 3 Out Of 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse Prefer....

     Who knew I was a threat to the established order?  A rebel, a radical, and a hapless tool of reactionary forces?  (You thought I was going to say The Patriarchy, didn't you?  Probably them, too, and Rand Paul besides.)

     Because, you see, I have self-published!  The horror of it!

     ...Wait, what?  A decentralized, disintermediating movement, a bypassing of gatekeepers, that's a bad thing?  That's a regressive thing? Quick, someone warn Tom Standage!

     It is a Very Bad Thing, according to some ghit at the Guardian, to whom I shall not link; Dave Freer (a self-published SF writer; likely has got horns and a tail as well) has fisked it, with links.  Go!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


     Not yet, but it's coming -- and here I am, with only walking, bicycling or my motor scooter until I pick up the rental van.  Yeah, I'm happy.

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Car Is Messed Up

     On a mission for Mom X, I was returning to Broad Ripple when...  The Hot Needle Of Inquiry, my '03 Hyundai Accent, began to falter.  Sitting at a stop sign, waiting to turn right, it coughed and nearly quit.  When I turned the corner, it had hardly any power at all.  At low revs, it was puny.  Seriously puny.  Sound rough, too.  (I stopped and had a look: no holes in the exhaust system that I could see.)

     I babied it down to the auto-repair shop, barely.  Waited a long time for a cab, Miss Tam being otherwise occupied.  A storm blew in with high winds and plenty of rain, so no scootering.  (It's not really much in the rain, especially early on.  Better after the oil washes away but we're talkin tiny contact patches.  High risk.)

     Four cars at Roseholme Cottage and one (1) of them is running.  I knew this day might come, but what did I do?  Nothing.  Oh, well done.

     I have Things To Do, so I've rented a U-Haul van for a couple of days.  Picking it up tomorrow, if everything goes as planned.   

Um, Good Morning...?

     Hi.  I thought I lost my scooter keys and went on a panicky search mission this morning.  --Hanging up in the kitchen all along!  And so it goes.  Much to do today, the HVAC isn't cooling worth a darn in my house or my car.

     On the bright side, yesterday afternoon after mowing all the lawn, weeding, sweeping the front porch, etc., I made a delightful treat: a float, with Seagram's ginger ale (mild but very good.  You'd not mistake it for Vernor's or Blenheim but the stuff holds up) with a few drops of black walnut extract (something between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon, closer to 1/8) and a big scoop of Tahitian vanilla gelato.  Ice cream goes in last, to avoid over-foaming.  Yum!

     This morning breakfast, not so bad either, an omelette with mushrooms, a little bacon, Swiss cheese and red bell pepper. ('druther Anaheim or Poblano but that's what I had on hand).  Crushed corn tortilla chips in the eggs, with a bit of cold water and some cilantro and good Hungarian paprika.  Wonderous!

     ...And with that, it's time to go get stuck right in.  Ow!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Word On The Street

     Actually, it's just off the street: there's a short retaining wall between a home lot and a parking lot along College Avenue and 38th Street, where whoever owns it (possible the homeowner) has been painting pithy aphorisms for many years.

     The sign-painter appears to have a keen sense of his (or her) audience; the various phrases are usually non-partisan,* "political" in that they address general issues in an uplifting way.  The current one is a nice snapshot of the general approach:


    Something of a koan, really.

     ETA: It turns out the artist/aphorist is Clayton Hamilton, who retired from AT&T a few years ago, and has been painting that wall for over twenty years.  He's modest about it: "'They're just humanistic insights that everybody probably has,' says Clayton about his work. 'I have a big tapestry. I could say things that maybe people would be interested in, maybe they won't.'" (Found in an article about his son, a local artist.)  I think most of us are interested, Mr. Hamilton.
* I seem to recall exactly one in recent years that expressed support for a local candidate, a man held even by his opponents to be particularly honest and well-meaning.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

"...And This Musical Number Goes Out To...."

     "....Mr. Chaz G. Hill of Dustbury."  I think this might be in his wheelhouse: 18-year-old Ann Margaret and a 24-piece student orchestra turning in a remarkably mature (if languorous) rendition of "Heatwave."  (No, not the Martha and the Vandellas hit, Ann-Margaret Olsen is singing an earlier number by some Irving fellow, last name of Berlin. 'Dja ever hear of him?)

Books, Publishing, Wobbularity

How many of you in the past twenty years or so went into a chain book store and came out with no books and disappointed?  You remembered perfectly well going to the convenience store around the corner and against your will spending your last dime on a paperback because it looked so good, but now here you were, in a chain store, surrounded by metric miles of books and unable to find anything you even wanted to look at.
     Yep.  RTWT.

Sign Of The Times?

     Woke up this morning and after feeding the cats, took a look out  the window.  Across the street in front of the shoe model's house, on the strip of grass between sidewalk and street, something sizeable was heaped up -- leftover from Friday's trash pickup?  Then it moved and I realized it was a young woman, laying curled up on her side, hands tucked between knees, sleeping rough.

     I wondered if something had gone seriously wrong over there; went to get my phone to call our neighbor, The Democrat, and took another look out a different window.  Yep, still there.

     She was gone by the time I had my phone out and went to take a third look.

     Someone sleeping off a night of excessive revelry?  Roseholme Cottage is a fair walk (and longer stagger) from the bright lights and ready libations of "downtown" Broad Ripple, but it's possible.  Homeless?  Also not impossible.  Runaway?  Maybe.

     Odd.  And a bit worrying. I hope she's all right.

Friday, June 20, 2014

And Lo, A Pox Was Prounounced, In Tones Of Contempt

     I said it elsewhere first:

     "Once again, Larry Correia, John Scalzi and some nitwit I never heard of much are spatting. In a better world, I'd be able to say, 'Boys! Go to your rooms,' but until I am elected Empress of All For Life, here's a stopgap for the cheering hundreds, specifically those writing comments along the order of, "Yeah! $BAD _STUFF should happen to $GUY_I_DISAGREE_WITH! He's bad and he should feel bad about it."

      "Yeah, y'know what, Bucko? No. Not. This here is the United States of America and people are allowed to be right out there being WRONG, walking around and talking and spreading wrongness and bad advice everywhere. And dammit, that's actually how most of us like it. Oh, we don't *want* to sit next to 'em on the bus, those wrong people who disagree with us, but if it's the last seat left, we will, and most of the time, they'll even scooch over a bit.

      "And unfuck[2] you Left, Right or Center if you don't like that. No, seriously: that attitude is The Real Problem. It's the very same exact damn thing that led to riots by chariot-team boosters in Byzantium. I don't expect it will change, really."

     It's not the Correia/Scalza battle royale that bugs me; they're big boys, armored in their own egos and armed with their considerable language skills.  Like Buckley and Vidal, the disagreement cuts deep and occasionally results in name-calling but it's fun to watch true heavyweight champions in action.  Nope, it's the legions of the unthinking on all sides, blind to nuance and often ignorant of the rudiments of spelling and grammar.  This is much the same crowd who mistake rudeness for blunt honestly, crudeness for heartfelt expression and unsly insinuation for subtlety.  And it's here where I'm accused of "tone-shaming," or of wanting everyone to be "nice" and thinking that would be a way to "fix things."  Tain't so; there is no fixing. We live in an unfixable society, a multicultural wasteland[2] that will never sort itself out, no matter how determined you or that horrible, horrible chap over there want to drive out the Republicans, cordon off Dearborninistan, catapult illict border-crossers back over a newly-built fence or ban Democrats; they're here, they're there, so are you, get used to it.

     --"Get used to it:" Vidal and Buckley did; hunt up their later public spats and they're loathing one another just as heartily and happily as ever, but they're fightin' by the rules: no low blows, no Godwinning, no punches to the teeth.  As a result, you get a better idea what their actual positions are, and can make up your own mind.  The audience isn't throwing roses and rotten tomatoes, either.

     I like Scalzi and Correia[3]; they're no William F. and Gore but they sling words okay and generally eschew groundlessness when the slings turn to arrows.  Oh, they'll strain the other guy's phrase to get a needle in, make no mistake, but that doesn't bother me.

     It's the mob-thinking on the sidelines that frets me.  Those are the guys who are gonna end up makin' me die in a big pile of brass, hoping to buy time for the innocent to get away before the mob-wits rend 'em limb from limb for suspicion of Presbyterianism, heterodoxy, homosexuality or wavin' a Gadsden flag. It's not "tone," it's a habit of thought that runs, "If Great Leader wants to spit on Evil Foe's mailbox, I will wait and spit on his mailman!" not grasping that the poor slob who hauls the mail was never even in your fight.  History has nothing to teach them.  They just make messes the adults have to clean up, sometimes for centuries afterwards.
1. I have to be pretty annoyed to use the word.  And I am.

2. First World Problems: I grew up just outside Suburbia and commuted through the vast wasteland of strip malls, burger joints and gas stations blighting the land; it was decades before I grasped the astonishing prosperity that readily-available inexpensive food, fuel and consumer goods truly reveals.  And thus also the politco-cultural landscape; we've got more Irish the Ireland, more Sikhs than in all of India and so on and on.  By historical standards, the poorest here are rich beyond measure, free as no people before them.

3. There's a third participant, supposedly a little to Scalzi's left, but I don't know his work and in my age and self-indulgence, I'm gonna assume if he's an SF writer and I never heard of him, he can't amount to much.  YMMV.  I'm sure his does.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

And That's The End Of Library Thing

     The cute little revolving sampler of books from my library in the sidebar suddenly turned into GIANT! BOOK! COVERS!  Two refreshes didn't clear it, so I took the widget out.


     Too bad, I liked it before it started to suck.

Mom, Hospitals, Frustration

     Day before yesterday, Mom was doing enough better that they were going to let her go back to the assissated-living center.  ...But when they did that one-more-check immediately before leaving, she had a fever and her blood pressure was back up where it shouldn't be.  The doc put her on yet another medication for that and Mom decided to stay until she (and they) learned how well it was going to work and check for side-effects.

      At least the hospital food is better. So far, every assisted living or post-surgical "rehab center" she has found, which includes some very nice ones, has not done all that great a job providing a low-salt diet.  Feeding a few hundred or a thousand people necessarily involves some amount of processed foods and it would appear the low-salt version of those giant-sized canned veggies (etc.)  is pretty uncommon. Hospitals are spending (and charging) more to feed you, but their stakes are higher if they get it wrong, so between that and the higher price, they get it right.  The "senior warehouse" places, not so much.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


     I watched Looper tonight.  I missed it when it was in theaters.  I shouldn't have.  It's a good film, something new about time travel, a sub-genre that's been done and done and done--  Looper showed me it's not all done.  And it's an affecting movie, not a goofy lark or a shoot'em up -- despite plenty of gunplay.  Oh, and some future-nostalgic cyberpunkery, too.

     The story handwaves its way through violations of causality, but to prove things wouldn't work that way, you'd need a time machine -- or proof-by-brute-force using a roomful of the geekiest of SF geeks, and not the good kind, either.  Shaddup and eat your hot bowl of Story.

     The projected future is a little too real.  You people have to knock this "Great Recession" stuff off.

     Only one real quibble: shotguns don't do that.  Mr. Newton told me so.  Sir Isaac?  Remember him?  If a shotgun could blow the person hit halfway across the room, it'd knock over the guy pulling the trigger, too. And they did make 'em, "punt guns" in insane gauges, but that's not what yours is and you'd still have to stop diddling the Third Law of Motion even if it was. Look it up, filmmakers, or get advice: one first-year Physics student, one gunnie, might even find a two-for-one expert if you asked around.  Than kew.


     I'll just put this on Teh Inndernet: They sell Thai sweet chili sauce in bottles just like ketchup!

     Swelp me, I might not ever want to put anything else on French Fries ever again.  Also just the ticket for those grocery-store hot roasted chickens.  Yum!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mom X, Back In Hospital

     She was just about ready for some minor-but-life-improving surgery when--  She stopped getting better and got worse.  Off to the hospital Sunday afternoon, where they rapidly stabilized her, got blood pressure back within normal range, and are now watching to see how she does for the next few days.  She's in good spirits -- frustrated, as you might expect -- and your kind thoughts and/or prayers would be appreciated.

     My own timing was none too good: I worked a five a.m. - one p.m. shift Sunday and was ginning up for a 3:00 a.m. start Monday when the text came in.  Baby Bro was with her and the medicos were saying no imminent danger, so I made do with a phone call.  By the quitting time after a busy Monday, I was so punchy I worried all the way home and probably would've failed a field sobriety test and had to beg for a breathalyzer. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

On Writing Or, You're All In The Movie

     "She caught my eye well before things went unstable: a large, tall woman, bronze-skinned and gray-haired, wearing patched and washed-to-pastel-softness coveralls, sleeves rolled back and unzipped from next to waist over a funny-looking pressure suit, what you could see of it crisscrossed with tiny lacings, striding through the crowd with worried determination.  Clearly a matriarch from some back-of-beyond mining/refining enterprise, or senior crew from a small ship that rarely hit the bright lights.  Her gaze was fixed, avoiding looking too much at the too-wide horizons and teeming crowds of a full-size Smitty's World business thoroughfare as she plowed along at ninety degrees to the prevailing motion, and if sheer willpower and doggedness alone where enough, surely they would have all screeched to a halt and parted like an anthropomorphic Red Sea.
     "Unfortunately, that's not how slidewalks work.
     "She didn't fall at the first belt, just taggered a little sideways, bit her lip and trudged on, still moving forward, starting to angle across the people walking in the same direction as the moving way.  No one tripped until the second belt and then it all went to pieces.  A clump of construction workers, dusty and unkempt, joking and horseplaying, clearly just off-shift, fiailed to see her and they all tumbled down in a know.  I saw her fall, mouth just opening to yell, and then a string of crtease on skids moving the other way hid the accident from view.  By the time they were clear, the emergency horns were quacking and the whole mess was slowing down.
     "There's only one traditional slidewalk in all of the dug-out maze of Smitty's City, built, they claim, in crazy admiration for a writer named Heinlein, and if it's not down for a couple of hours every day over some mechanical failure or foot-traffic accident, it would be a wonder for the newscasters to report.  Today would not be that day."

     All that in response to a woman very like the one described except for wearing a muumuu instead of coveralls, seen stepping through heavy automobile traffic on my way home from work.  She made it without incident, thanks mostly to courteous drivers, or at least drivers too fastidious to want a stranger draped bleeding across the hood.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

When Did Moose And Squirrel Start Shouting "Allahu Akbar?"

     It's the Iraqi and Bullwinkle show!  Remember the voice-over announcer?  "Stay tuned for our next exciting episode, 'Fast Times As Baghdad Falls' or 'Today Mosul, Tomorrow The World.'"

     Odd, I remember it being funnier when I was a child.

     One thing I have to say: very early on in Mr. Obama's Presidency, I remarked how much he resembled a young Dick Nixon.   --He's certainly never looked more like Nixon than he does right now; he's a ski-slope nose and a single photograph away from a near-perfect likeness.

     Meanwhile, inside my head: "Gee, Mr. Peabody, that Mr. Mohammed sure didn't like dogs...."  "Shaddup, you, and hand me the puppy shampoo.  These rotten eggs aren't getting any fresher."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Wounded, Walking

     Tam and I are both off to doctoring this morning, or maybe later -- I ripped the toenail almost clean off my left pinky toe three days ago.  Stumbled into furniture getting read for work and it hurt like pure-dee hell, but I didn't look down because, well, getting-ready-for-work.  And when it came to putting-on-socks time, I did look and lo, the Toe Of Pain was also covered in (now crusting) blood.  Cleaned up, applied bandage, and have been repeating the procedure twice a day ever since, but it's gone a bit-- Um.  Let's just leave it as "gone a bit odd," and move on--

     And in our next showcase, The Tamara, who last night was enjoying a lovely pizza until a grabby bit of melted cheese made off with a tooth cap.  The hardware has been recovered and preserved but my offer of superduperglue was refused.

     So we have each got to have these little items looked at and perhaps repaired.  Migawsh, the fun.  The glamor.

     UPDATE: Got Tam's dental work done -- it took like four hours.  My toe, not so much.  Maybe tomorrow after work.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Buzzwords Kill

     Speech codes, official and informal, as thought control: you thought it was a new thing?  Guess again!

     (This may count as "Godwinrolling." Should I have included a trigger warning?)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


     From the Wall Street Journal: "Google Steps Into Autism Research." Are they looking for better treatments, or hoping to shorten the search for new hires?

The Obama Administration Re-Invents McCarthy-Style Witch Hunts

     Only this time it's run by the Department of Justice,[1] so instead of a damaged reputation and a possible "Contempt of Congress"[2] charge, their victims will face criminal charges and hard time in Federal prisons.  Don't look for any semi-drunken harangues about sneaking Commie infiltrations, either. The reconstituted Clinton-era Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee won't be going after any foreign-influenced smalltimers like the Boston Marathon bombers, oh no sirreebob, they're after bigger fish and game, like those horrible-evil right-wingers that got into a bloodless standoff over grazing on Federal lands.

     The deviation-DeTECtors of DTEC'll keep us safe even if they have to jail up every harelipped machine-gunner on the line at Knob Creek, and your cousin with the Gadsden flag tacked up in his garage besides.

     Personally, I haven't felt this comforted since the time I learned the Russians have had a "deadman's switch" last-strike system up running since the 1960s -- and it's still in place.

     That Mr. Eric Holder, he sure does know how to cure paranoia: by justifying it.

     See ya in the re-education camps!
1. Oh, Orwell, where is thy-- Ow!  Ow!  Oh, there it is.  Dammit.
2. Man, if Congress ever touches reality about the degree of public contempt they're steeping in, there's gonna be more folks behind Federal bars than outside.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Square Peg, Round Ideology: The Left Keeps Hammering Heinlein

     Somehow, a free-love, limited-government SF writer who wrote glowingly of bureaucrats[1], altruism[2], attaining social justice through the court system[3] and championed competent women in his fiction[4] and who has been dead  for 26 years is still a bete noir for the political Left.  He's not dead enough -- and probably won't be until the last copy of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress goes into the fire.

     Witness New Republic's histrionically-titled review of the second volume of William H. Patterson's biography of Robert A. Heinlein: "A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness."  Yes, without a huge big nanny-government (but not one run by anyone to the Right of FDR) there'd be madness!  Dogs and cats living together...! 

     If it was a well-researched hatchet piece, it might be of interest.  Sadly, it appears the writer hasn't read much (if any) of the source material; by the second paragraph, he has mischaracterized Starship Troopers as, "a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence as the key to human survival," and goes on to sniff at it as, "A thoroughly authoritarian book," presumably since the culture uses corporal and capital punishment and only veterans get to vote (no one actively serving gets to vote and qualifying service is not only military service -- the narrator makes it clear that in peacetime, the vast majority of such "service" is in areas of government-run exploration, research, and public works of the sort one might expect would gladden the heart of a New Republic reviewer).  Things go even farther off the rails from there on, reaching a peak of political pique with "Later in life, as a libertarian, he would rail against 'loafers' and the welfare state but in his leftist days he knew how much he depended on the government," which misses the point: Heinlein was never himself a "loafer" and his characters are not opposed to charity, only to idlers; it is possible to be both poor and hard-working, on the dole and yet industrious, and the astute reader enounters such persons often in Heinlein -- Max Jones[5] is a good example.

     It's a review by someone who dislikes Heinlein and didn't care to plow through 643+ pages on the second half of his life (omitting bibliography) for a chance to stick pins in him, most clearly shown by this howler: " I Will Fear No Evil (1970) a 94-year-old billionaire first has his brain implanted in the body of a 28-year-old black woman..."  Really?  African-American, was she, and you're sure about that?  Patterson, Vol. 2, pg. 305, in re that novel: "His female protagonist, Eunice Branca, was to be racially ambiguous, so he took clippings from two magazines -- a sunny blonde and a stunning black woman, and posted them on the ledge over his typewriter, alternating looking at them, so he wouldn't unconsciously drift into stereotyped language."   It does appear there has been some unconscious drifting into stereotypes here, but it wasn't by Heinlein.

     There's plenty in Heinlein to criticize, to take a second look at and there's plenty about Patterson's biography to delve into as well.  But you're not going to get it from the New Republic's review; the verdict had been decided before the book ever arrived.
Footnotes, from memory:
1. The Star Beast
2. "Gulf," among others.
3. "Jerry Was A Man," for example.
4. Radio tech G. Brooks McNye in "Delilah and the Space-Rigger," engineer, politician and SF screenwriter Hazel Meade Stone in The Rolling Stones, Friday in the eponymous novel, (arguably) mathematician Libby Long, Maureen Long, et al.
5. Starman Jones

Monday, June 09, 2014

Las Vegas Idiots

     I'm seeing the same news you are.  "Crazy-scary idiots are crazy scary" is all I've got; some kind of race-war ass-hattery with usual ending: would be racist warriors safely and appropriately dead after, dammit, killing innocent people.  If these clowns didn't kill anyone other than themselves, they'd be risible; as it is, they're the societal equivalent of terminal foot-fungus and I include in that description anyone of any hue who is ginnin' up for a race war.  Knock that crap out, we've got children on this planet and all you're doing is scaring them and making messes in the corners.

     Comments will be savagely moderated.  You don't like it?  Hie your racist ass elsewhere.  The rest of us have grown-up stuff to do.

     UPDATE: And now we find that they're Indiana idiots.  From Lafayette. Oh, swell.  At least they're dead.

Wiki-Wander Wonderjahr

     So, I'm looking up SF writer Tom Reamy, for some reason (possibly to verify my suspicion that San Diego Lightfoot Sue is a documentary -- I blame the Alice Sheldon [James Tiptree, Jr.] biography I started reading Sunday), and I find myself distracted into the "Whatever Happened to Last Dangerous Visions?" department.

     Nobody knows, or no one other than Harlan Ellision.  Chris Priest wrote the definitive investigative report a long time ago and still-- no book.  You could ask Ellison but that's probably not the best of ideas.

     On the other hand, it was a reminder to look up books by Octavia Butler and (a bit tangentially) Hayford Pierce.  And will someone please tell me why the collection of his delightful Chap Foey Rider stories is so very out of print?

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Canned Corned Beef Hash, Sometime In The Early 20th Century - 8 June 2014, RIP.

     Well, they've done it, slimed-up the last decent brands of canned hash, "Mary Kitchen" Corned Beef and Roast Beef Hash.  So I've had my last can of the stuff and from here on out, I'll have to make it myself if I want any.   You can shortcut with deli corned beef, just have 'em slice it thick, but it's not near as quick or easy, for all it is probably lower in Bad Things I Shouldn't Eat. I haven't had great luck with the various frozen and canned potatoes, but I hadn't been motivated to make a really serious try until now, either.

     It was a good long run and I shouldn't gripe, but it's just one more bit of a steadily-poorer world, even here in the fattest part of the fat of the land.  Rome was a long time falling, too, and at any given point, it was real hard to see the decline.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

     Spent Saturday afternoon helping my baby brother clear out/rearrange the garden shed and garage at my Mom's (former) house, part of preparation to "stage" it for showing by the realtor.

     It's a strange-feeling thing to be doing.  Oh, it's not uncommon -- a lot of people have to do just what we're doing as their parents age.  But it's a thing you do once, clearing away clutter and debris that includes the things you grew up with, sudden memories from a scrap of paper, a decorative flower pot, a beat-up "handyman" vise.  We worked pensively, trying to evaluate what could be thrown away, what mustn't be, what wasn't going to be needed again with Mom's gardening days over (most of that can go to my big sister, but she's out for most of the summer with a fractured pelvis from a car wreck).

     I recovered some big things, a couple of them long forgotten.  The bulk of a Collins 212A audio console (1947 vintage), I had not forgotten, but it's a two-person lift and awkward even at that; it's in the back of my car, where I'm going to have to disassemble it for storage and, maybe someday, rebuilding.  But I didn't even remember the big box of late 1970s electronics magazine in not-so-good shape and another of mid-1980s SF magazines (Analog, Amazing, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Galileo, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, maybe even a Galaxy or two). All forgotten, or all but; ditto my 6" metal slide rule (a present from a former boss), a glass full of pens (several Rapidographs), a box of pinfeed paper (trash) with a ream of canary newsprint second sheet on top (either trash or treasure -- it was dirt-cheap and you used it for first drafts and carbons when writing using a typewriter. I have been unable to find it for sale in recent years), a couple of radio handbooks and a submission draft (two errors or less per page!  Oh, you kids barely know...)  of a story I wrote about the same time I was reading those SF mags, "Barn-Burner," a middling-lousy title for a middling Sturgeon-esque trifle.  I may try recycling that -- I remember that kid; she had some good ideas.  (I still miss the typewriter that was typed on, a pre-Selectric letter-series IBM electric, easily one of the best first-draft tools I have ever used: you flipped the switch and it was quivering to go, a warm, thrumming hum muting outside sounds...  It weighed at least ten times as much as a laptop and used about a hundred Watts and is perhaps more golden in memory than it was in reality.)

     We swept and rearranged, threw away and discussed, "Hey, remember...?  Oh, gee, that thing's still around?"  There was a lot of Brownian motion but by the end, the shed was neatly arranged with plenty of open space, and so was most of the garage.

     One comes home from an experience like that pensive, with a fully-loaded car, pregnant with memories like an old maid about to birth a dusty mummy.  It's a look through the wrong end of a telescope and it's a long, long way down.

     I'm past the halfway point in my life unless I live to be 112.  Not a bad plan, if medical science keeps up; but they seem to be a little too busy inventing dick pills and anti-depression medicines that don't turn most users into homicidal maniacs ("if used as directed"), so I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope.

     Is it all downhill from here, or does the roller coaster have a few peaks left?  Either way, it looks like a frightfully abrupt stop at the end.  It's a little late to admit I'm scared.  But I am.


     In other news, I finished the Heinlein biography (I cried; I still remember buying my second copy of Locus, ever, to read that Clifford Simak* and RAH were both gone.  Never bought another) and started on the Alice Sheldon one -- you may know her better as Racoona Sheldon or James Tiptree, Jr.  Gone, all gone, dammit.
* If you have never read Way Station, you've missed an excellent novel, one of the classics of the genre.  The Goblin Reservation is another fine book, and SF despite the title.  Simak's approach to his characters and worlds was unlike anyone else's, his protagonists more resolute and enduring than conventionally heroic.  His work holds up well even now and generally "reads" well ahead of its time -- the two I cited are from 1963 and 1968 respectively and IMO, SF didn't really catch up with them in style, tone and attitude until the mid to late 1970s.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Win A Trip To Space

     I don't know if it's round-trip or not, but who cares?  The top-level Hackaday Prize is an all expenses paid trip to space!

     It's no quiz show, Roy Malcom, nor will Clifford Russell need to keep buying soap and writing slogans: to win this one, you need to be a Number One Alpha Geek -- and you've gotta invent the future.

     Offer does not apply in Italy, Quebec, or in a number of grotty little autocratic and/or theocratic states.  I have no idea how the first two made the list; they might want to look into that.

     (While I'm linking to books we read as youngsters, remember the Winston Science Fiction Series?  Good stuff -- and that cover art!)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialog With His Century, Volume 2

     The long-awaited second half of William H. Patterson's Heinlein biography has been published and I'm well into it.  There are a few deeply jarring science bobbles early on -- Patterson seems to have gotten the notion that V-2 rockets were fueled with liquid oxygen and hydrogen peroxide[1], for example -- but it is a lucid, readable and, where it concerns his subject, well-researched narrative.

     Anyone who has been following the long, dark tea-time of SF's tempest between (mostly smalltime) Social Justice Warriors on sone side and Larry "Walter B. Gibson reborn"[2] Correia (with midlist accompaniment) on the other will find much that is familiar in the book's coverage of critical and editorial reactions to Heinlein's "Starship Troopers," right down to the determined misreading of the text.

     Big book fulla fascinating dish, well-supported, well-written despite the occasional technical lapse.  Recommended -- buy your copy via Tam's link and help pay for high-speed internet here at Roseholme Cottage, mmm-kay?

     N.B.: I have corrected a silly typo in the post title.  My first name is just one letter longer than RAH's -- and I type it rather than his (and my fathers) practically as a reflex.

     Update: William H. Patterson passed away 22 April of this year.  He was 62.   He is much-missed.
1. What? These are both oxidizers.  Like air.  V-2 engines burn alcohol (75% ethanol, 25% water -- 150 proof, like rum only without the flavor) and LOX.  They do pump 'em with a steam turbine driven by catalytic reaction of hydrogen peroxide, but it's not driving the rocket any more than the battery propels a '53 Chevy. Patterson is very comfortable explaining the complexities of who said what to whom, when but I'm willing to bet he never changed spark plugs in his car.

 2. You could maybe look him up.  Let's just say Gibson probably kept  his neighborhood typewriter repairman very happy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Idiots With Firearms, Part Whatever

     I know -- let's have a gunfight at a gas station at 1:00 a.m. when one guy brushes against another!  Both of the young gentlemen are in hospital, along with the girlfriend of one of them.

     Still waiting to hear if both of them were "just getting their life turned around" or if one was instead, "just minding his own business."  Crying grandmothers have also not yet been located but it's only a matter of time.

     And meanwhile, the spate of shootes among the criminally-inclined continues in Indianapolis.  IMPD is finally starting to make vague noises about some realtionship with "drugs."  The last time we had a similar rate of shootings concentrated in the "Thirty-whath and what?" neighborhoods, one drug gang was moving in on another.  My goodness, you don't suppose...?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Merchant Princes, Revisited: Really, Mr. Stross? Really?

          Some while back, I mentioned I was on Book Four of the six-book "Merchant Princes" series by Charles Stross.  An interesting concept, well-executed; but along about the point where I set them down to  write my review, things started to get a little silly.

     Well, either silly or what I'd assumed to be our familiar Earth was not (and this does appear to be the case based on other evidence in the text): you see, when one of the prime villains showed up, he turned out to be Dick Cheney.

     And not just any Dick Cheney, either; the short- and/or ill-tempered political opportunist and operative of our world had been replaced by a deeply eeeevil chap who lacked only a waxed mustache to twirl.  Yes, the ham-handed shotgunner who briefly endeared himself by violating the spirit of Senate Rule 19* when he suggested Senator Leahy might want to enjoy an intimate moment all alone, that guy.  In the books, he's not the old pol who went from "most powerful Vice President in history" to retirement in 2008 but a spider more ruthless than Moriarty. If a sparrow falls, he felled it.

     The character is readily recognizable as the Mother Jones/European press version of Cheney, embodying practically everything that worries them about U.S. politicians, especially Republicans.  In hindsight, it reads so over the top that it become part and parcel of Stross's setting, one of three alternative worlds, this one very like our own and yet almost risibly different.

     If you are easily riled at caricatures of politicians, you may want to avoid this series.  If you'd like a look through eyes on the far side of the water, you may find the series offers it as a sort of unintended bonus.  And if you always suspected the man was up to no good, you'll probably find Art more convincing than life.
* The Senate at that time not officially Senating, the grade-school-type rule barring "harsh language" wasn't in effect.  (And it may not apply to anyone but actual Senators even then.  Does that mean they can have their staff swear for them?  Probably not.) A pity they have it, really; if Senators could indulge in some really vile invective while on the clock, they might spend more time doing that, less time checking for a loose fiver or billion in the public purse, and find themselves having to get a move on to accomplish their Constitutional duties in the remaining time -- but I dream.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Nope, Nothing

     Worked past midnight last night, drove home with almost no gas in the car, could not get to sleep and now here I am, making ready to head back in.

     Sometimes that's all there is, nothing left over.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Some Thoughts On Writing Science Fiction

     Yesterday or maybe the day before, I pulled down one of the Pournelle-edited* themed anthologies, in this case Volume Two of Imperial Stars, Republic And Empire.  These collections generally offer good solid entertainment, a mix of well-written short fiction, poetry (I can take it or leave it; generally, I leave it) and essays.  About the only new material is the introduction and lead-ins -- which suits me, as it means classics from John W. Campbell and H. Beam Piper are included, as well as work from writers both well-known and unknown that have previously been published only in magazines.

     Essays by Campbell -- "Constitution for Utopia" -- and Gregory Benford -- "Reactionary Utopias" -- caught my attention.  The Campbell piece is used as a stage-setter for Eric Frank Russell's Minor Ingredient [2] and with good reason, as both are concerned with the selection and education of potential leaders.  The Benford essay is another kettle [3] of fish, addressing primarily LeGuin's The Dispossessed and with a suspicious eye, then moving on to briefly dismiss other "women's utopias" from Johanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr. (dutifully though incorrectly unmasked as "Racoona Sheldon," another of Alice B. Sheldon's pseudonyms) and others.  While he is likely correct as to the impracticality of the proposed societies -- Anarres and Whileaway would probably have experienced greater internal conflict -- and his labeling of them as "reactionary" is not unjustified, he contrasts them with societies he "...suspects...prove rather more enlightened than some recent chic versions," citing Heinlein's Beyond This Horizon and Niven and Pournelle's Oath of Fealty as examples.  This is remarkably disingenuous from a fellow who, pages earlier, defines "reactionary" utopias as those that "...recall the past, often in its worst aspects," and then overlooks the 17th-Century underpinnings of the Heinlein work and the deliberately-evoked feudal overtones in the Pournelle yarn.

     Benford makes a number of excellent points, including what he labels as "five dominant reactionary characteristics" and I would call Big Damn Holes In Worldbuilding You Have To Write Around: Lack of diversity, static in time, nostalgic and technophobic, presence of an authority figure, and social regulation though guilt.  --Though that last is actually half of the most common and low-level regulation of normal human behavior: guilt and/or shame, for all they are ill-regarded, are the primary influences keeping your neighbor from beheading you with a shovel when you go a-lawnmowing at oh-dark-thirty of a Sunday morning.  Any one or maybe two of the others can be used as a key element in worldbuilding but you've got to 'splain it somehow.  Conversely, over- or unconscious reliance on any of 'em will do one's work no good.

     My fiction includes a kind of non-utopian utopia, the societies and worlds of the "Far Edge," which has darned few laws other than a harshly-enforced limit on the size of governments.  At the heart of it is something of a monoculture, the culture of the flitting trading ships; the shadowy "central government" drawn primary from among them refuses to govern and is, in effect, a conspiracy or secret society:
      One of the problems with the shadowy "Federation of Concerned Spacemen" non-government is that it has no official existence and few if any of the assemblies and appurtenances of a government. Being something of a conspiracy of ship-captains and the semi-official representatives of town-meetings, wealthy only as the participants will contribute — a staggering wealth in goods and materials by Earthly standards — it can't or won't do the normal government behaviors. The FCS is nowhere mentioned in the text of the 1989 Agreement; the closest thing to it is the amnesty granted all Project Hoplite spacefarers ("and descendents, associates and immigrants") save a small group of named conspirators. Rumor has it ratification on their side of the line was a raggedly uneven affair of ad campaigns, direct voting and a running debate among ship-owners and captains that nearly became open violence. There aren't any FCS embassies and there's no way for any outsider (or, I suspect, most Edgers) to speak directly to the FCS as a body — assuming it even has meetings. There appears to be no single body in charge, at least not in the way the rest of us think; there's just a broad set of generally-agreed-on principles, with ad-hoc enforcement, funded on the spot. What they have are private message boards (the electronic variety), PR reps, extension agents, a scattering of attorneys (at least in NATO-controlled space) and, if all else fails, hired Mil/Space troops. It's unsettling.

     The Federation of Concerned Spacemen started out as a conspiracy and it still runs like one.
     Thus I find myself concerned with the problems of utopias.

     On another level, I find myself concerned with something else: Benford appears unaccountably hostile to LeGuin and other female utopianists; on first glance, this would appear to be political, but he then quotes Samuel R. Delany in support of his analysis and Delany is no less a leftist than LeGuin.  That leaves two possibilities, a rather childish boys-vs.-girls dynamic or personal animosity.

     I have little to say about the first; like politics, it is what it is and either you accept that not all the other rats in the maze are just like you or you don't and you're either okay with that or you're not.  As for the last, it leads me to one conclusion: other writers are to be avoided. If contact can be limited to the craft of writing and the difficulty of obtaining promised monies from publishers, fine, but otherwise, dodge 'em.   There is nothing to be gained from knowing them outside of what they have written, and too much to lose.

     --And after a certain point, stop reading SF seriously if that's what you write; it's too easy to get pulled into a pigeonhole, too easy to fill your head with old familiar tropes, moldy chestnuts best left as rubbish.

    "Reactionary Utopias" is an interesting essay, certainly thought-provoking, and yet I think it is mistitled.  It's got a certain grade-school playground odor faintly lingering.

     This is the world we've got -- it's no utopia, nor are any of us saints.
1. With John F. Carr

2. One could ask for no better example of the contrast between Russell-the-writer and Russell-the-man than this story, and it should serve as a reminder to not go too far in ascribing to writers the virtues espoused in their texts.  Writing reflects the author in a funhouse mirror -- if even that.

3. You know how to drive a self-educated and mildly dyslexic person nuts?  Have two spell-checkers, one of which doubts the existence of "another" and the other looks askance at "kettle."  As well as, by the gods, "askance."  Keep it up, machines, keep it up; I own a perfectly good sledge hammer and it doesn't give me any backchat.