Sunday, November 30, 2014

Went To Gun Show, Bought Paperweights

          Saturday, Tam, the Data Viking and I trundled off to the Tri-State Gun Show at Stout Field National Guard Armory in my SUVesque vehicle.  It was my first time taking it on the freeway.  As I am no fan of freeway driving and the route slithers through the downtown "spaghetti bowl," this was slightly white-knuckly, but it went okay.  (The RX300 has just a little bit more vroom than my Accents had!)  I'm still working out where the corners of the plush truckwagon are.

     It was the usual interesting show.  I think Tri-State's shows lean to more collectorish sellers than does the Indy 1500; you don't see the big aisle of mostly not-for-sale shinies and tables crowded with new guns from the big dealers ending in a line of buyers filling out 4473s.  Instead, interesting and obscure stuff abounds, offered by smaller dealers, collectors, pawnshops.  This is not to say you won't find pink-and-white Taurus revolvers ("for her!" assuming her fits some stereotype on the Donna Reed-to-Vargas-model line) and brightly-colored derringers (please, don't buy derringers.  You'd be better off with a pastel Brazilian wheelgun), but there are a lot unusual and/or old firearms and the better-known classic manufacturers are well-represented.  

     Tam found herself some kind of Miami Vice S&W wondernine -- 12 +1 shots and a grip that's only moderately 2x4ish.  The Data Viking looked at High Standards, as is his wont, but the semi-autos were too new for his taste and the very clean Sentinel (R-101) .22 revolver is something he's still thinking about.  (I love 'em, but that's just me.  .22 plinkers grow on you.  Or not.)

     And me?  I hadn't planned to buy anything.  Hey, I just bought a car!  Looked at some knives but I've got just about any kind of knife I might ever want, from practical work/general purpose knives to carpenter's marking knives to razor-sharp scalpel knives for removing wire insulation to knives for eating, "fruit testers" like folding steak knives and hobo knives with fork and spoon.

     And then....then....  Well, there was this guy, see?  With a few very old revolvers, see?  Both are some variety of .32.* One was a missing-parts velocipedist's revolver from the late 19th Century, short barrel, folding trigger, the holes where a safety used to be and a short, rounded grip.  The hammer-spur shape and safety make it likely  to be European.  Belgian proofmarks confirm it.  There was a near-twin a few tables over, intact and complete, for something over $225.  One nice touch to the design is that with the hammer down, the (fixed) firing pin is held well away from the chamber unless the trigger is held all the way back; it's a "rebounding hammer."  As late-1800s designs go, this would have been considered pocket-safe with every chamber loaded.  This one's missing the loading gate and ejector rod as well as the hammer-locking safety, so it's a curiousity.
Okay, they're upside down to the text describing them.  I fought the "properties" for twenty minutes to get this far.
      The other one was shiny and appears to be chromed rather than nickled.  A top-break, it has many of the features of a Hopkins and Allen...except for the interesting lockwork that keeps the firing pin blocked from the cartridges until the trigger is pulled.  Instead, it has a rebounding hammer...and an ornate "F&W" on the well-preserved grips.  It's got ratchet issues and a line of sock-drawer corrosion along the barrel on the side away from the camera in the photo above.
     Looking at the rib atop the barrel tells the tale:
---FOREHAND MODEL 1901.---
     (Yes, "CT."  Coincidence, not anachronism.)

      The story of Hopkins and Allen is somewhat star-crossed and not for any lack of quality; in 1874, Charles A. Converse (the silent name in H&A) sold his half-share to the Hulbert brothers and H&A became the sole manufacturer of the delightfully strange, well-made Merwin Hulbert revolvers.  Hulbert went bankrupt in 1896 and H&A did the same two years later, but reformed as Hopkins and Allen Arms Company and then lost all their machinery in a fire in 1900.  Through all this, they'd been making revolvers under contract for a long list of names, including Forehand and Wadsworth.  In 1902, F&W was bought by H&A, and this little gun probably dates to about that time period.

     Trouble persisted for Hopkins and Allen: in 1905, their warehouse was emptied by thieves.  They staggered on and even won a contract to build Mauser rifles for Belgium's military at the beginning of WW I.  For obvious reasons, that contact was never completed.  H&A went bankrupt in 1916 and in 1917, Marlin Rockwell Corporation bought the remaining assets.  Finis, H&A.  (Marlin has been collecting and being collected by New England firearms makers ever since; in 2000, they picked up Harrington and Richardson and in 2007, Remington bought Marlin.)  If all this buying, building, patenting and bankruptcy is reminiscent of the semiconductor/computer industry, there's good reason.  Quality mass-production machine work started with firearms, spread rapidly to engines and bicycles, and mushroomed from there along Moore's Law lines, technology spreading and morphing, companies forming, merging and going under.

     That's some entertainment, from a pair of not-fireable guns offered at $50 each and bought for $85 for the pair.
* Pop quiz: how many .32 cartridges can you name off the top of your head?  .32 S&W, .32 S&W Long, .32-20, .32 ACP (7.65 Browning).... The neighborhood of .32 is thickly populated, though .38/9mm may have it beat.

Friday, November 28, 2014

I Suppose...

     ...I should offer up some insightful, pithy commentary on Black Friday, commercialism, plastic junk, Ferguson protesters, people who camp out all night to save $50 on a big-screen TV or the frikkin' insanity in mall parking lots on this day, but in fact I ain't gonna.

     This stuff is fun or fulfilling for some people.  I'm not one of 'em.

     I'm gonna go make mashed-potato pancakes.

     Update: They're not world-beaters -- I haven't made potato pancakes in forever -- but they're not bad.  Especially with some peri-peri sauce.   I'm reminded I should make some nice Midwestern salmon patties this winter, possibly with braised asparagus on the side.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner, 2014

     Yes, another Roseholme Thanksgiving dinner.  Tam and I took it down to essentials this year:   
I suppose it looks scary.  Tastes very good, with dressing and sausage in addition to the three birds.
     Onion-mushroom-bacon gravy (a la Farmom)--
Slightly sweet, with caramelized red onions, steamed mushrooms (the steaming water used for the gravy) and good bacon.  The bacon fat is used to fry the onions and then for the roux.
     Served over skin-on mashed potatoes--
     With olive medley garnish and a nice glass of locally-made hard cider.  It was delish.  I have been sluggish ever since.  Perhaps I'd better sleep it off.

Thanksgiving. Giving Thanks

     The earliest Thanksgivings -- and they go back at least as far as the Reformation -- were days set aside to celebrate some general or special event.  In the United States, we have a ready-made (but poorly-documented) account of Pilgrims and Natives sitting down in awkward amity to share the bounty of a successful harvest and we've spun it neatly into national myth.  As such tales, go, it's a good one, a lesson in getting along.

     ...It's also a good day to consider what things you might be thankful for without ever even realizing they were there -- or even complaining about when you do notice.  Take another look at the world around you and consider just how much worse it could be.  What you've got ain't perfect but it's something.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Absolutely Nothing Whatsoever Happened Today In Sector 83..."

     First, the TV news told me things were less unsettled in Ferguson, MO overnight, which I took to mean burning and looting were significantly down, angry people with signs and slogans was up slightly, and farrows and gilts were steady while wheat prices were trending upward-- but this was right after the farm news and I was just waking up, so I may be a little off.  They had some video, too, which appeared to be from Ferguson or nearby.

     Then the TV shared that a couple of FBI agents had been shot and wounded while serving a warrant only a few miles away from Ferguson, Missouri -- but the incident was "not directly related" to the protests and rioting* in that town.  Hunh?

     Y'know, when The Oldstream Media, carefully spoon-fed by The Gummint, goes out of their way to tell me two things in proximity and then that they aren't related?  I kind of think otherwise.  Neither entity has what you might call a history of straightforward truthfulness.

     Darned if I know what's what -- I do know there are some 2,000 National Guardspersons  presently in Ferguson, 'cos it turns out violent reaction to police perceived as an occupying army results in getting some real soldiers in to do actual occupying.  Ooops.  Or was that the whole point?
* It's a good idea to look closely at whatever video you see from whatever events are happening in relation to the grand jury verdict.  Some people are just carrying signs and yelling; others are setting things that aren't theirs on fire and "redistributing assets."  One of those sets of activities is Constitutionally protected.  The other, not so much. The media and especially their assorted punditry doesn't always want to distinguish between the two.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dodged The Fallout -- So Far

     Not the radioactive kind -- the news-cycle active variety.  Last night,the grand jury in Ferguson came to a decision: that Officer Darren Wilson hat not committed a criminal offense in the shooting death of Michael Brown.  The prosecutor was at some pains to describe the process, including multiple autopsies and eyewitness testimony, including the witnesses whose accounts which had changed over time, and gave the narrative the grand jury had arrived at after their investigations.  Fat lot of good it did -- as near as I can tell, Fox was the only over-the-air network to cover that part of his statement, while the other three contented themselves with quick coverage of the verdict and crowd reactions in Ferguson and then back to America's Most Talented Amateur Detective Wizards and toothpaste commercials or whatever.

     The President came on not long afterward, as calm and calming as I've heard him (though he still looks like Dick Nixon to me, right down to making only fleeting eye-contact with the cameras), and was still talking when Tam, looking at a news network online, reported the first brick-hurling and tear-gassing.  --Not that any President has ever stopped any rioting, but he did get out there and try, fat lot of good it did.  I'll leave it to the pundits pick apart his words.

     News media keep worrying at the situation like it was an itchy wart; they're not helping, either and unlike the President or the prosecutor, don't much look to be trying..  

     By the time I went to bed, Ferguson stood at two (empty) police cars ablaze, a freeway blocked, at least one store looted and a strip mall burning.  Nobody dead.  No rubber bullets fired and it's hard to tell but appears most if not all of the reported "shots fired" may have been ammunition cooking off in the burning police cars.  Quite a few thrown brickbats and plenty of tear gas lobbed at the crowd.

     I watched quite a bit of Bassem Mastri's live-streamed celphone journalism; his comments were sometimes a bit naive, wondering why the police weren't putting out the burning cars (which were well outside police lines and any attempt to douse the fires would have involved confronting protestors) and bemoaning the "military-style vehicles" (used not to assault the protestors but as a mobile barrier) and "soldiered-up" LEOs in riot gear (some of the other photographers were wearing helmets and gas masks, too).  Well, it did look just awful and he did a good job of showing it, but I never saw so much as an orange shotgun full of less-lethal shells pointed anywhere but down.  Tear gas was lobbed from well behind of the line -- and sometimes lobbed right back.  As riots go, it was more of a protest and I think that's a good thing.  In a final ironic touch, a Person Unknown jostled Mastri, grabbed his phone and took off running into the bordering residential district, live stream still feeding the web until the thief got a few blocks away and shut it down.  And there you have the whole picture: courthouse, cops, protestors, journalists (about one in three of the crowd had a camera or celphone in camera mode), a few "direct action" types and a smattering of the kinds of predators who hunt whatever's grabbable when things get messy.

     Now we've got today.  Protests overnight in various major cities did not approach even the level of violence in Fergeuon, MO.  Might get worse today, might not; if you live in a big city, expect pissed-off people with signs in whatever are the Ususal Places.

     One good thing that might come of this: the case and the reactions are all based on eyewitness accounts; there's no video.   If Officer Darren Wilson had a camera on his person, we -- and the grand jury -- could have seen pretty much what he saw.  There would still be room for debate, there always is, but it would be a lot less driven by speculation and stereotype.  Rugged little cameras have become cheap and sticking them on policemen is cheaper than having to replace burned-up police cars and burned-up civility.

     One bad thing: after George Zimmerman shot Treyvon Martin, I saw a lot of young African-American men going around in hoodies with the hoods up, making a statement on even the hottest days.  Michael Brown came to Darren Wilson's attention by walking well out into the street -- and starting today, you may find people making a statement by doing the same thing.  Look out for them.  Agree or disagree with the "statement," but let's not have people die of posturing, hey?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dodged The Weather -- So Far

     First it was amazingly cold for this time of year; now it's been raining pretty steadily for twenty-four hours.  Luckily for us, the temperature went way up first.

     It's in the mid-50s now.  If it was still so cold, we'd have had a healthy snow.  Right at freezing, it is likely we would have had an ice storm.  It's the right time of the year for them.  I don't much care for snow and heavy snowfall is a problem; I'm not a fan of heavy, days-long rain.  But ice?  It's a nightmare.  A disaster.  I'm happy we missed it this time -- but it's not over yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

So, I Bought A Car

     My '02 Hyundai Accent, The Hottest Needle Of Inquiry and third in a series of Accents, has been getting very long in the tooth.  As in "needs new CV joints," as in "poor oil mileage," "poor power steering fluid mileage" and the ever-popular leaky steel wheels.  The hood had picked up a nasty case of rust and I had to baby it up from a dead stop to about 5 mph, a range through it had little torque and tendency to hiccup.

     On the other hand, car dealerships are a wretched hive of scum and villainy and, worse yet, Indiana's blue laws and my schedule meant I had about one whole day a week when the car dealers were open and I had time for 'em.

     Saturday morning, Tam had had enough.  "What're your criteria?" she asked, and I repeated the same slightly unrealistic list I'd been searching on; she pushed me to make a few adjustments (paying a little more, mostly) and we found a couple prospects nearby.  My friend The Data Viking was visiting (we had planned to see Interstellar) and was roped into the search.  After a perfectly delightful and only a little insane set of breakfasts at Taste,[1] off we went.

     The search seemed doomed at first.  The Hyundai wing of the sprawling Butler series of dealerships had just moved to a new and distant building, leaving a subset of wrong signage pointing at their Fiat/Maserati dealership (where the salesmen do not deign to converse with hoi polloi, or me either).  We tried on the other side of Keystone, at their Toyota/used lot, and were at least pointed a half-mile down 96th street to the new Hyundai building.

     There, at last, was one of the vehicles Tam had found: a 2000 Lexus (!) RX300, a sort of slicked-up SUV for the city.  While it lacks 4WD, it does have a leather interior -- and a combination of sophisticated traction control and decent road clearance that should cope adequately with snow -- especially in the alley behind Roseholme cottage.  After a checkout, test drive, various back-and-forth between Tam, the salesman, me, The Data Viking, a sales manager, and a frank admission that my present car was not, perhaps, sparkling new, we came to a price I only loathed.  We stuck there for awhile, until it came up that I would be paying cash.  The Sales manager mentioned a number I thought was mildly stinky.  He named another number that was barely smelly at all-- and there he stuck.  It was a couple hundred more than I wanted to pay but he out-stubborned me, and I finally decided I needed a car more than I needed that $200.
Now I can see over other cars!  Umm, sorry, guy behind me.
     So I bought a Lexus.  Almost -- had to go back home for my car while they "processed paperwork," and when we returned, there was, of course, a line to get to the one (1) financial guy they had working.  Oh, and they'd broken off the already-bent radio antenna in their car wash.  (Good job, guys).  They'll be replacing that (got the IOU right here); the radio works okay without it as long as you listen to local stations.

     And so, after paperwork more like buying a house -- and remember, I paid cash, no financing -- I bought a Lexus.  Do I get to sneer at the peasants now, or does that take an even fancier marque?

     We never did get to see the movie.  Next weekend, darn it!

     By the way, despite lower clearance, a nice ride front-wheel-only drive[2] and a remarkably civilized set of amenities, this vehicles came in third in testing by Car & Driver, right behind the BMW X5 3.0i and the Acura MDX and that only over a lack of gung-ho offroading ability.

     So, there's one task off the list!
     Bonus: helping clear out The Hottest Needle Of Inquiry, DV found my iPod, which I thought I'd left in Turk Turon's rental car when we went to the Dayton Hamvention this past May.

     Oh, one other thing: after three cars named after a Kzinti spy starship, a new brand calls for a new name.  The first interstellar vessel I could think of that had a leather interior and a nicely-finished hull was a real classic and thus, I dub my new car The Skylark Of Space.  I hope E.E. "Doc" Smith wouldn't have minded.
1. Seriously, Roman Emperors would've killed for that food.  You could pay more but you won't eat better.  Tam has photos but she hasn't posted them yet.
2. No, I'm told the one in the Car & Driver test did have four-wheel drive.  Mine does not -- on the other hand, those are the costlier parts of the drivetrain.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Goodbye, Tektronix

     Fear not, at least for the short term: Tek is still around.  Okay, fear a little: I'm not sure how serious they are about staying around.

     Tek's flat-rate price to repair and calibrate [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE]: $10,500.00
     Tek's price for a new [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE]:  Well north of...........$20,000.00
     Competing, functional-equivalent [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE], Brand A...$7,000.00
     Competing, functional-equivalent [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE], Brand B...$5,000.00
     Competing, functional-equivalent [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE], Brand B'..$4,995.00

     Our dear old [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE] is broken.  I don't think it will be going back to Tek for repair.  Sure, Tek is good stuff -- but the days when LaVoie could clone one by going just a wee bit cheaper on components are long gone.  Every one of these instruments is one input converter/signal processing board and a big old chunk of software, plugged into an entirely conventional computer.  Our [REQUIRED TEST DEVICE] still runs Windows 95, Tek not making updates readily available (see prices above).  I'll miss it.  It's a neat little package, a rack-mount touchscreen computer with a tiny wee screen about 9" wide. 

     Dear Tek: remember when what my employers do was essentially a license to print money?  Those days are gone.  It doesn't look like they'll be back soon.  We can't drop this kind of money on stuff so far into the technobackground that management will never, ever see it nor understand exactly what it does for them.

     Sic transit gloria geektopia.

Friday, November 21, 2014

That's Two Days Of...

     Of I don't know what.  Some more of the equipment up at the North Campus failed (cough, need scheduled time up there, cough), leaving me scrambling on a day off to arrange for a rental replacement and factory repair -- and the weather was (barely) good enough that contractor called me, wanting to get some work done up there.  Sure, why not?

     Today, the rental should arrive and I'll go put it in, with help.  I was going to be at the hospital (my Mom was scheduled for surgery) but that got cancelled, so by working at least four more hours, I reclaim eight hours of vacation.  My last eight of the year, which I will be using whenever they get Mom rescheduled.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"The Last Dictator"

     It's a commercial for a chicken restaurant:

     There was some complaint.  Hmpf.

Day Off

     Sorry, gang -- it's a scheduled "vacation day," but I am in fact using it as another sick day.  Spent most of the morning in bed, headed back there. shortly.  Yeah, I still don't feel so hot.  Maybe just the cold weather, maybe not.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It's Not Just Me, Right?

     You're checking the news a few times a day and breathing a sigh of relief that there's no verdict from Ferguson yet, too, aren't you?

     (Predictable snit-storm of comments to follow.)  At this point, it no longer matters what the facts are -- oh, I know, the true facts matter to you and certainly to individuals directly connected to the precipitating incident -- but if the Grand Jury comes out with anything other than a policeman's head on a spike and especially if there's no new corroborating evidence made public, neighborhoods are going to burn.  The only real question is how many, for how long, and will it happen where you live?

     I don't know.  This was a lose-lose situation from the beginning and I continue to believe it was persistently mishandled by a police department and city government felt public opinion could be ignored and who failed to -- or refused to -- believe they we juggling dynamite with a lit fuse.  I'm not arguing for the right of a mob, any mob, to overrule criminal justice -- but even a little bit of sensitvity, a little bit of PR, chest-beating and a high-ranking resignation or two would have gone a long way to defuse tensions -- or, if you prefer, to undermining demogogues intent on inciting violence.

     Too late now.  The fuse is sputtering down and the only question is, how loud will the boom be?  I expect a verdict today; the weather is about as cold as its going to get this week and yes, I'm just cynical enough to think that will have an effect on the Grand Jury's timing.

     You might want to take a sack lunch to work today.

Monday, November 17, 2014

...And After The Second Half Of The Split Shift

     I'm even less sanguine about my employer's policies towards the very necessary evil of the North Campus.  Oh, don't get me wrong; the place is an historical appendage, something we are stuck with in order to pursue our business, but it also happens to be the highly regulated side of the business.  We can't just ignore it.  If it goes away, we kind of do, too.

     Ignore it we do, though.  I can't get regular walk-throughs up there scheduled on any timetable, not weekly, monthly or quarterly.  It's supposed to happen "organically," and whoever goes up there for whatever kind of fireman-style maintenance or to repair something in the very large garage is supposed to "look around."

     How well has this worked out?  Funny you should ask.  I showed up last night (on a Heisenburg-superstition shift, covering a high-dollar event on the theory that the equipment won't act up if there's someone there to watch it, since that's so much cheaper than actually doing regular maintenance) expecting one issue I wasn't going to be able to fix during the event and yep, there it was, but not expecting to find essential computer-based test gear dead of hard drive failure.  Nope, one of the few "organic" visitors had reported it wasn't measuring a couple of parameters.  Wrong, it was a frozen screen and rebooting revealed why.  And hey, guess what, you kinda need it to take the steps that will show if there's a hard failure in the other thing or its just out of adjustment, well....  There's sort of a workaround for that, if I can get time to actually do it.

     And the topper?  I go to leave, and my car is now so messed up I have to air up two of the tires daily (the wheels leak!).  The little super-flexible section at the end of air-filler hose has rotted.  Leaked like a sieve, which I found out by de-airing my already low back tire.  Forty-five minutes later, I had rebuilt the thing without the flexible hose, handy valve or pressure gauge.  It worked (I have a pressure gauge in the car) and I was able to drive home carefully through the snow.

     Not one of my best days.

     P.S., I need a vehicle.  Won't buy new, prefer 4WD, don't care if it's a gas hog.  Ideally able to transport 8'-long boards of at least 1' in width, which my tiny Hyundai hatchback will do. (Tam keeps trying to sell me on the idea of a roller-skate commuter vehicle, which would be fine 95% of the time but doesn't even begin to work for bad-weather missions to the North Campus and the like).

Sunday, November 16, 2014


     Tried to leave work on time and two pieces of software crashed.  One didn't matter, and we fobbed around and got the other "fixed," more by luck than skill.

     Great, all done, go home, sleep, finish split shift from 9 p.m. to midnight.  No?

     No.  Boss calls, wants logs from a different computer issue, proceeds to tell me stuff that doesn't jibe with what I understood the last time we grabbed the logs, and continues to do so after I have called up the actual memo and am reading it.

     Hey, boss?
     Don't overestimate how bad I need the money.  You've been losing people; you've even lost a couple who still collect a paycheck.  What's one more?  Nothing to you, as near as I can tell, so why should I care?
     Sincerely yours, another cheap piece of meat you won't bother to replace.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

So I Went Back To The Doctor Last Night

     (Guys, I'm going to tun off comments for this because while I appreciate people's desire to help, quack-doctoring makes my blood boil.  In dealing with the ongoing long-term migraine-like issues (very similar to the present mess), I have been down every side-alley and cowpath associated with medicine, and shelled out good bucks to fringoids who used stuff as far-out as electric acupuncture.  To date, what little progress has been accomplished has been done by traditional, conventional Western medicine and even the dullest hack of a conventional M.D. has done well by me.  The far-out guys -- and I'm including neurologists as I have so far known them, sorry fellows -- have proffered "treatments" that cost a lot of money and made me feel worse when they did anything at all.  The neurologists at least have the excuse that even the very best and most targeted of drugs we have for the brain are about as subtle as a hammer; the rest of them, IMO, are self-deluded at best and unethical frauds at worst and that's where discussion stops in my little corner of the Innernets.  Snort all the colloidial silver/electric acupuncture/Reiki you like but keep it over there on your side of the table)

     After two nights in a row of being awakened by pain in my ear, face, neck, left shoulder and back, despite taking my ibuprofen on schedule, I thought I should maybe go see the doc yet again.  I'm still having bouts of dizziness and I've starting taking aspirin and/or acetaminophen offset three hours from the 4x/day ibuprofen.  Yeah, big fun.  Plus the Augmentin is causing severe tummy/GI upset despite taking acidophilus capsules.

     So I called 'em and they called back and we talked about my symptoms and they had me "come on down!"  (You could possibly pass off the main doc-inna-box as a very young Monty Hall but you'd have to upgrade his wardrobe and dial down his friendliness a notch.)  He's added another medication and as soon as I'm civilized today (I made it to the office about 8:30 p.m.), I'll go pick it up.  I slept better last night after starting out flat on my back with no pillow; I have a tendency to sleep on my left side and that's sure not helping the inner-ear pressure on that side.

     Some fun.  I've been avoiding my Mom because I sure don't want her to get what I've got.  Tam appears to have weathered a mild attack of something similar already.

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Sad Story

     A stray cat showed up awhile ago.  He was pretty shy and one of the neighborhood ferals, a middle-aged fellow our neighbor calls "Skittles," just hated him on sight.  The two cats were of similar coloring and build, compact gray shorthairs; maybe Skittle was just freked out by a mirror-image that didn't move when he moved?

     By a slow process known only to tomcats, the new guy ended up spending most of his time in our front yard.  He tended to talk, and if I was at the backyard fence talking to Jack, the third feral -- he's gray-and-white, long-haired, fourteen years old and a great pal of Skittles -- the new cat would meow and meow.  Eventually, the new cat started spending time on our front porch and made it clear he'd be happy to come on in.  He wasn't afraid of me or Tam, and if the inner door was open, he and Huck would talk through and smooth on the glass storm door.

     It was natural, as cold weather started, to think about adopting him.  I'd fed him on the front porch a couple of times. Our neighbor, who's very good with cats, caught him and kept him caged overnight.  Yesterday morning, she delivered him to us in a large carrier and I kept him in it, isolated in the basement.  I'd made an appointment with the vet for 11:30 a.m.  It was during my work hours, so Tam took him there and he was a real charmer, as sweet and friendly a cat as could be.  One ear was "tipped," which usually means Indy Feral has caught and neutered a cat, and he was looking good....

     Until they checked for Feline Leukemia.  He had it and it was starting to affect his health.  The clock was ticking -- and since it's infectious, Tam couldn't even bring him home to be an outside cat.  The vet was visibly upset when she shared the bad news.

     Tam stayed with the gray cat -- we were calling him "Buddy" -- 'til the end.  She's called me and we were both very broken-hearted over the news.

     I've been with cats in their last moments a lot of times -- a couple of brave ferals at my old place that were mortally injured in fights, my ex's nice little cat, my family of three black cats -- and it never gets any easier.  Being there, comforting the cat, is the one decent thing you can do for them.  But it hurts.  Gosh, it hurts.

     Huck was puzzled last night, looking around, checking the windows.  Where was his friend?  I told him and he listened as solemnly as only a sixteen-pound tomcat can, then leaped off my lap to go play.  Life's a bit simpler for a cat.

     Last evening, I kept thinking I'd heard a meow from outside, faint and distant.  Go in peace, little gray cat.  We tried.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Yer Kicks Just Keep Gettin' Harder To Find

     But Augmentin'll kick you, good and hard.  My tummy knew it all day yesterday, up close and personal, too.
*  *  *
     And speaking of kicking--  Looks like California stands at the brink of shall-issue gun permits, for which you can thank Peruta v. San Diego and the Ninth Circus Circuit court, the "open carry" advocates who panicked the State Legislature by walking around with unloaded (!!!) guns not so long ago (Open Carry went away in CA in 2012), and their predecessors in the Black Panthers who did the same thing with loaded guns and panicked the state Legislature -- and then Governor Ronald Reagan -- into passing and signing the shameful Mulford Act a generation earlier.

     California generates plots too implausible for the movies and this slow-motion dance, from open-carry and a restrictive "May Issue" process for concealed carry, to unloaded-only open-carry, to no carry, to the courts discovering that an honest citizen was left with no option at all outside their own curtilage, might not have played out in any other state; but it has there, leaving County Sheriffs (who generally control the permitting process) with few options other than granting permits to any qualified applicant.  There are a few last chances for parties opposed -- despite having refused an official request from the State to do so, the Ninth Circuit could still decide to rehear the case en banc. With the State of California unlikely to provide guidance, individual Sheriffs in individual Counties may be reluctant to implement the changes Peruta would appear to require, which will probably result in further legal action; and various municipalities including most of not all of the state's larger cities are likely to fight it, too.  Stay tuned, kids, there's plenty of exciting action still to come--  But Peruta looks definitive; the remainder is just mopping-up and perhaps the end result will be all the stronger for having been well-tested.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Augmentin, Amoxicillin, Whatever

     After a day and a half on the stuff, nearly all of it in bed, I'm better.  Not a hundred percent, but enough better to see that I haven't been, not for some time.

     (It's frustrating -- do I not catch these soon enough because my usual headache masks it, or are the two related?)

     Anyway, on the mend again and hoping this time, it'll last.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Armistice Day

     In the States, it's Veteran's Day, one (1) day out of 365 when the media (with a perky smile) reminds you to say thanks to a veteran (and moves on to weather, traffic & sports); in the Commonwealth countries, it's Remembrance Day, functioning much as Memorial Day does here, and those poppies you see recall the ones that bloomed across the ghastly Great War landscape and symbolize the fallen.

     However observed, however marked, we remember and honor those who fought, who served....on a day when they stopped fighting.  At one eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, nearly a century ago, along the crawling gray scars that disfigured the landscape, the guns fell silent.

     The men and women who fight wars, who treat the wounded, they don't start them and it's rare enough they officially end them; they do not choose their battles.  When their country called, they served.  Call them patriots, call them dupes -- they hear it often enough, too often, from fools and cowards, from those who never "saw the elephant" and never will --they stepped up. And they all sacrifice; even in peacetime, it's not safe work, it's not well-paid work. It's a kaleidoscope for every pundit and demagogue, every pacifist and non-serving hawk: each has an opinion, an image, a stereotype, and they slap it on the nearest veteran.

     It's a mistake. Men as different at Jimmy Stewart and George McGovern served, went out there and did the job alongside people you've never heard of and never will.  All individuals.  Not a one was abstract or symbolic: real people, most of them cogs in a vast, harsh enterprise, flesh and blood against steel and lead.

     You'll hear a lot of rah-rah about freedom today and perhaps you should (it'll give something to ponder at TSA checkpoints, won't it?) but this day isn't about that, either.  It's about the people who went into danger, brave or scared, reluctant or eager, and came back hale or hurt; it's about all those who took the oath and did jobs that were "merely" difficult, dirty, dull--  They served.  They served while the guns were firing and when the guns fell silent.

     Stop a moment, in your comfortable life, and thank a veteran.

Monday, November 10, 2014

You Will Be Pleased To Learn Gravity Is Not Malfunctioning

     Nope, it's fine.  Me, on the other hand, I have an inner-ear infection, either again or still, and now I've got some new drugs to take and we'll see what that does.

     Fun, fun, fun.  I'm goin' to bed.

Yeah, Monday

     The Tamara mustered for Sick Call this a.m., and didn't want any chow.  This not at all usual.  She did manage to put away a good dose of limeade, so hopes are high for an early recovery.  Look after her, Internet.

     Me, well, um, y'see, the doc-in-a-box closed early Sunday.  While I'm as dizzy as ever, I am no dizzier.  I'm going to work, where I will avoid ladders and the like, and try the doc again this evening.  (Is this wise?  No. Wisdom would have looked up the hours Sunday and, thus informed, eschewed a long soak in the tub no matter how much better it made her feel.  So I had a nice excursion Sunday and got nowhere.)

     Ham and Swiss omelet this morning, too, with some three-day-old cornbread soaked in milk in the batter, which tastes way batter than it sounds. "Food is sleep," the Inuit are reputed to say, and sleep is healing, right?  By the transitive property of equality, things equal to the same thing are equal to one another and therefore I'll be eating plenty this morning.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday Morning--

     --All two minutes of it that are left as I sit down to type.

     I've been pretending for over a week now, hoping it'll clear up, but it hasn't: I'm still sick.  I haven't much energy, I get the dizzies and thundering headaches keep waking me up despite running right at the suggested non-prescription max on Vitamin I.  I'm either running a fever now or the furnace has turned itself up--

     It appears the inner-ear infection for which I sought treatment awhile back merely staged a retreat when I deployed the Z-pack and is presently on the offensive.  Well, count me offended.  I've had a bite to eat,* I'm headed to the shower and as soon as I'm decent, I'll be off to to the drive-through doc.  Geez.
* Not too sick to cook, especially when I could cheat most of it: pork-fried "rice," thanks to a nicely-seasoned nuke-in-the-bag whole-grain mix, a fine chunk of slow-cooked deli pork roast in the fridge, an egg, a little bit of red bell pepper, some this and that from the spice cabinet (Oh, freeze-dried chives, the very Wonder Of The Age!) and a dollop of peri-peri sauce to finish -- ten minutes labor, tops, and enough left to freeze a container for tomorrow's lunch, too.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Giant Underground Sucking Sound

     The shade* of H. Ross Perot snickers as the struggling homegrown American meth industry withers under competition from cheaper Mexican-cooked meth.

     You could not make this stuff up and be believed, period.
* (Yes, he is still alive.  That doesn't mean his shade can't snicker.  And a literary construct is way less likely to sue.)

A Zen-Like Moment Of Cognitive Dissonance

     Here's a neat little series of facts:

     Photography is, in fact, not a crime; as a general rule, you can take a picture of anything you can see.  (This is why the posted borders of Area 51 kept getting pushed farther and farther out.)  It's a First Amendment issue and you'll find outfits like the American Civil Liberties Union foursquare on the side of the guy making pictures.

     Policemen who overstep the bounds are a civil-liberties issue, too -- and it's something that intersects with cameras more and more often.   So much so that there's an increasing movement to stick cameras on police.  It's an idea I heartily support, especially for uniformed officers, who oughtn't be up to anything that can't stand daylight.

     The reliably libertarian/Leftish Photography Is Not A Crime walks every millimeter of that beat and does a darned fine job of it.

     Now, my Left-leaning friends reliably inform me that The Koch Brothers are, in fact, The Devil, some kind of crypto-fascists of the direst stripe.  They also tell me the Cato Institute, founded and partially funded by at least one Koch, is up to the The Devil's Work.

     So imagine my surprise this morning when PINAC cited Cato's Quartly Report from the National Police Misconduct Reporting Project!  (I believe this is an effort begun by ex-Hoosier Radley Balko and handed off when he moved on.)

     Yep, when a cop beats up a guy?  Cato is there, probably peeking over Henry (Tom Joad) Fonda's wrathfully-grape shoulders.  When an OWS hippie gets rousted or a muckraking photojournalist gets arrested on trumped-up charges?  Cato spreads the news and raises the alarm!

     Turns out that civil liberties as a thing has got itself a variegated army of rough allies -- and they can get along well enough to push back, at least a little. --Stuff that in your sharply-delineated red/blue pipe and smoke it, why don'cha?

    (A nod to this article, which put it all in one place.)

Friday, November 07, 2014

My Post-Election Rant

     I've been putting it off.  Maybe, I thought, we can have one damn election where people breathe a sigh of relief and get back to the real world....

     Wrong!  From cartoons like this on the left to zany musings on the right that the incoming GOPpers might be too compromisory or too intransigent, from chiding warnings about the "dangers of supermajorities" to warning chides about the "perils of getting along with the Administration," I'm surround by the de-damnededest collection of sore losers and sore winners alike and even more sore-losers-by-proxy and sore-winners-by-proxy, and what they all have in common is soreness, a species of aggrieved, self-important butthurt that is about as useful a great big wart on the pad of your thumb and way less attractive.

     First all, politicians?  Get this: most citizens (and many non-) think government, especially Federal government, does too damn much.  They may not agree on what you should be doing, there are significant amounts of non-overlap about what you shouldn't be doing, but we'd all like you to do a little less, and to accomplish it with less childish tattletailing and games of gotcha, fewer dead innocent people, fewer travels that are just disguised vacations and/or campaigning; we want you to use clearer language and less B-S- flagwaving, in-group winks and dogwhistles. Getchyer fine-suited little selves into the office and get to work, preferably on whatever the devil it was you promised the people who voted you in.  (I don't care if you're to the left of Bernie Sanders and you told 'em you were gonna introduce legislation to communize everything: if you said you'd do it, go do it.  Likewise if y'promised to work on enabling citizen's militias and hand out M-16s to all comers?  Start draftin' legislation.  Whatever.  Just do your damn job, okay?)

     And now the rest of us: Listen up and listen up good: if the party you like to vote for won big, or if the party that you love went down in flames,* that wasn't you.  Dancing around, chortling "We won, we won," sitting around crying resentfully in your beer muttering, "We wuz robbed," oh, crap.  That was some stuff happened to rich boys and girls that run for office.  You still have to get up and take the Oldsmobuick to the office or factory or amber waves of grain and do whatever is the horrible, rewarding, gut-wrenching, pointless, splendid thing you do every day in order to put food in your belly and diesel or gasoline or electricity into your ride, so you can get up and do it again tomorrow.  That's what you do and it's what the people on every side of you do, too.  Some of them innocently and sincerely hold political opinions directly opposed to your own, and yet they smile at you every day, buy from you, sell to you, stick used gum to the underside of the tables, overtip, shortchange, etc. etc.  They're just people, not The Debbil, and just like you, they go on TwitFaceBlogSpace and express their damfool opinions, as if they thought that crazy stuff made sense!  --Which they do.  Let them, and you do the same, and at least try to understand that the other fellow having his say is not, in fact, an attempt to suppress you and your screeds.

     And what if the "other fellow" is Rush Limbaugh or Andrea Dworkin or Hilliary Clinton or the Koch brothers, Michael Bloomberg, Newt Gingrich (who?) or George Soros?  --So?  Yeah, they have money/fame/backers/power and yeah, those things are amplifiers; always have been.  But you live in wondrous times: where once these folks would have worked in smoke-filled back rooms, leaned on editorial boards, bought media outlets and been either beneath the surface or above reproach, now you've got access to channels of bidirectional mass communications, to unfiltered (and, often, unvetted) information -- connected to most of the planet!  And yet folks still fume about various "they" and "them" and how the little guy is aced out, silenced, covered up--  Oh, sure he he is; but it's like Winston Churchill's line about democracy being "the worst system of government -- except for all the others."  You're not as loud as all those folks makin' heap big smoke but you've never had more information and a better chance of shouting back than right now!  --And yet you're still wallowing in butthurt, just like many of the politicians.

     'Cos butthurt is easy.  Butthurt is familiar.  Who doesn't root for the underdog?  So, who doesn't want to be the underdog, and get rooted for?  Thing is, here you are in the First World, and we're way short of underdogs; the Internet is even shorter of them (and they're reading this at the public library).  By the standards of a lot of the world, we're all overdogs -- some a bit more than the others.  You're not much underdoggy at all. Grow the hell up.  Stop whining.  Look your neighbor in the eye, even if he or she does vote like an idiot, and remember here's someone who's not evil, who mostly manages to keep their bills paid, lawn mowed, dog curbed and cops from bustin' down their door just about as well as you do -- and that you both have better things to do than mope around, thinkin' about politics and feelin' the butthurt.

     You got out and voted Tuesday, or you didn't.  You're adult-tall and it's time you stopped letting the noise distract you.  I'm not asking you to be nice, I'm telling you to get back to work.
* And in that case let me, as a default-Libertarian voter, pour you some of this fine Failed-On-The-Ballot I get to enjoy Every. Single. Time.  Now, tell me how bad your Party's got it again?  I'm all ears. And all heart, just like most LP supporters.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Shut Up And Take My Money

     Okay, I admit it, I'm tracking the prices for a refurbished Windows Surface Pro -- unlike my regular Surface, it would run Scrivener and I like the size, screen and keyboard.  I can write with the Surface I have, I just can't run my favorite tools (Q10 to compose, Scrivener to plot, edit, revise and polish) on it.

     But the Hemingwrite offers a genuine mechanical-switch keyboard, a plain-jane black-on-white e-ink screen, and wi-fi without the distracting temptations of the World Wide Web -- and it looks good.  Turn it on and type!  Most of the advantages of a portable typewriter or a netbook/pad-thing with keyboard, with few of the drawbacks of either.  And have I mentioned how good it looks?

     Now the bad news: it's in development.  There's no word on price.  There's no word on when.

     Want, want, want. 

The Mental Image Is Different When Ian Fleming Writes This

     "Part of the thong fell off my coffeemaker."  When I say it, it just means some of the leather shoelace that holds the wooden heat insulator at the narrow middle of my Chemex has become brittle, broken, and fallen away.  In a James Bond novel...  Well!

     OTOH, I think Bond did use a Chemex.  So there is that. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Autumn Sky

     Lovely clouds.

     ...You thought I was gonna write about the election?  Don't you get enough of that elsewhere?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Election Day

     Yes, it's happy-voting time, when you get to help decide on some of the obnoxious nitwits who will be pushing you around!

     I shouldn't have to say this to readers of this blog, but for the record:

     1. Do your homework, judge candidates carefully.

     2. Vote your conscience 

     If you won't do #1, do the rest of us a favor and stay home.

The Bacon, Egg And Tomato Sandwich

     It's good.  And it will restore your faith in the goodness of life, too.

     Tam and I had a late lunch at Chipotle yesterday.  It's a chain fast-food place and for me, the visit was a three-in-one special: first, last and never again.  Taco wasn't anything to write home about, the "medium" sauce was all heat and no flavor, and I ended up with a painful, upset stomach.  It's like a bad copy of Qdoba by someone who has never had decent Mexican food -- or even a good norteamericano fake.

     So a decent breakfast this morning, 16 hours later, is a relief.  ...Y'know, I hate to sound like one of those small-is-beautiful types, but we really did lose something when franchises drove most of the little "greasy spoon" places out of existence.  Sure, some of them were dreadful and over half were merely average; but if you didn't like one, there was usually another one to try a few blocks away, with as many different possibilities as there were owners and cooks.    Now, "average" is about as much as you can hope for, and some chains are simply hopeless.

     I'm happier with my own cooking and if I'm too sleepy or too busy or too lazy to cook, I'll stick with the independents.

Monday, November 03, 2014

An Advertising Don't

     On my way to work every day, I drive by a billboard for a jeans company that -- bless 'em -- makes cute jeans for plus-sized women.  This is a real need in this nation of the cheap Big Gulp and the $700 bicycle, and it will be as long as most people refuse to use the stairs.  Better denim than Spandex!

     On the other hand, when you name your company and design your ad campaign, you should probably check to make sure it can't be undermined by a kid with a long-handled roller and a few bucks worth of paint -- or a blogger with graphics software.  The second "R" easily becomes a "P" and, well:
     Ahh, the satisfied expression you get, relaxing after eating a dozen burgers, a liter of soda, a whole box of chocolates and a Fuller Brush man who fell in while the machinery was running.

     (This has led to some interesting discussion, here at we're-not-skinny manor.  Is this post poking fun at fat people, or at a series of billboards that consistently show heavy models reclining?)

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Speaking Of Idiots, Part III

     This idiot at Time.

     Hey, Jeffrey, feel free to freeze in the mud in the dark, but don't try pulling the rest of us down with you.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Speaking Of Idiots, Part II

     This guy at Wired.

     Tl;dr version: "Okay, the right kind of space travel is grudgingly okay, but it is bad and wrong and icky if it's for rich people."  --By his logic, we'd've never had private airplanes, celphones or personal computers -- or, come to think of it, Wired magazine.

     (Off topic, or maybe not: a creature of my generation, when I hear "one-percenter," I do not think "millionaire bigshot," I think, "dangerous biker."  OTOH, in either case the real deal has little to prove; it's the pretenders and wannabees you've got to be wary of.)  

It's Cold, I'm Sore, Breakfast Is My Only Hope...!

     So I slept in.  Breakfast is worth it: an omelet filled with buffalo jerky, a little pickled vegetables,* applewood-smoked Gruyere and BellaVitano cheeses, with a little paprika and chives, cooked in butter, sesame and chili oil.  This is a "what's in the pantry?" omelet and it turned out delicious!  A little peri-peri sauce didn't hurt, either.
* A pepperoncini and bits of cauliflower, celery and red pepper, but after they've been swimming in the brine while, they're all on a first-name basis with one another.